back to article America world’s sole cyber superpower, ten years ahead of China, says Brit think tank

The United States is comfortably the world’s most powerful nation when measured on “cyber capabilities that make the greatest difference to national power,” according to British think tank The International Institute for Strategic Studies. The institute on Monday published a document titled “Cyber Capabilities and National …

  1. Fazal Majid

    The US is also more vulnerable

    The US’ greater adoption of IT, IOT and IIoT also make it more exposed and vulnerable to attack, as illustrated by the Colonial Pipeline incident.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: The US is also more vulnerable

      That's not because of IoT, etc. The fundamental truth of any technology is the more complex you make it, the greater number of failure point open up. If the U.S. does indeed lead in technological power, then it also is a declarative that it will have the largest number of possible failure points.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: The US is also more vulnerable

      The Colonial Pipeline attack was a traditional attack against management data. Admittedly it was an IT attack which could have been prevented by going back to pen and paper but let's get real here.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait a second. This the same America that just had a fuel pipeline hacked? Not heard anywhere else in the world that's happened but yes they are 10 years ahead of everyone else.

    Seriously though how do you even measure this? You can't determine the capabilities and security of every company and the government capability and security are secret. Also and maybe because it's our press I don't hear of any hacks by the Americans, it's always the axis of evil or as I like to call it, propaganda.

    1. HammerOn1024

      Being a private system, hackable or not hackable, is not what this article is about; it is about national assets - Government assets, within the government in general and the military as called out by the "offensive" verbiage in particular.

      Yeah, the US government has had some serious lapses, most recently with SolarWind, but the ability to counter and recover was pretty quick once the attack was identified.

      This is in contrast to incidents from the early 2000's where government networks were hacked for YEARS before being detected.

      Is US commercial and governmental infrastructure where it needs to be? No way! But it's nowhere near as bad as it was. It is getting better.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        SolarWind - An intern using a weak password.

        Do you realise how ridiculous that sounds in the world of hacking? It's not even a hack. What was it? correcthorsebatterystaple?

        The article speaks of a report that measures the unmeasurable. You wouldn't know the capability of the US government because it's secret and you wouldn't be able to know it's security unless you tested it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One does not have to measure anything. The Job here is to write a Rah-Rah-Report on how Superior we are, sprinkle it with MIL-Speak and Buzzwords to get the word-count target, and that is basically it.

    3. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

      This isn't the first pipeline attack, there have been several over the last five decades that I know about.

    4. Yes Me Silver badge
      Mushroom

      What a mess

      Not heard anywhere else in the world that's happened but yes they are 10 years ahead of everyone else.
      Actually, wasn't Australia the world pioneer in having a sewage system hacked? El Reg told me so it must be true.

  3. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    I wonder...

    How much did this report cost?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder...

      Ignorance is expensive

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: I wonder...

        AS Terry Pratchett said, "ignorance shared is ignorance doubled."

    2. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
      Happy

      Re: I wonder...

      It is easy and pleasant to praise allies.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/consulting/comments/hcmmon/me_and_the_boys_after_endorsing_each_others/

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All we are saying is

    Give peace a chance

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Give Peace a Chance. Don't Worry. IT has it all covered and Guarantees Unqualified Success.

    “The US has moved more effectively than any other country to defend its critical national infrastructure in cyberspace”. That opinion is tempered with the observation that the United States “recognises that the task is extremely difficult and that major weaknesses remain”.

    Such an opinion is strengthened beyond compare and belief with the advent of Almightily Sourced Forces to the Fore ..... with Grand Arsenaled Assets to Bestow and Highlight within Future Presentations for Virtual Reality Pre-ProgramMING ..... Live Operational Virtual Environment Preparation for the Bounty Released to Investment Markets for Purchase of Core Vital Asset Rich Ore.

    Does Uncle Sam do something similar, or are they progressing/regressing to somewhere else.

    Are they in market for such ..... and of sound mind to purchase/lend-lease/further explore exploits guaranteeing one's immunity from prosecution and persecution whenever there be tumbles and rumbles and stumbles in malicious vengeful envy attempts at character assassinations.

    The Bottom Line .... Money Shot Question though is, are they So Enabled and Able to Lead Everything Everywhere Anywhere with IT? Such is available for Sale and for Sales and to Hire and Further Explore.

    Or is all that in a league all of its own, and way ahead and far beyond that currently realised and presently produced on Earth. In any case, Engagement is a Massive Win-Win with Colossal Results.

    The UK derives strength from its many alliances and has conducted offensive cyber-ops since the early 2000s. But a lack of talent, inability to match the scale of investments made by China and the United States, and small industrial base mean it can manage risks but not export tech to the world.

    I think you will find all, and therefore any of all of that, totally incorrect and the reverse opposite be more true ..... a world tech exporter managing risks with a mean base of exceptional talent.

    One reason for that assessment is that the US and its allies “have agreed to restrict, with differing degrees of severity, China’s access to some Western technologies” and therefore potentially impeded China’s ability to develop its own cyber capabilities.

    China does not need any granting of access whenever whatever is needed and discovered is simply gifted and freely given to further supply ..... generate Alternate Intellectual Property Energy with Remote Virtual Powers to Command with Universal Control and COSMIC Assistance ...... Heavenly Help.

    Think of it as .... a Long March type Program Enhanced and Practising Speedily and Safely and Securely and Stealthily Anywhere/Everywhere. That would be invaluable.

  6. ILikeDrinkingBeer Bronze badge

    Frankly, countries like Russia and China might have the right idea with their various nation-level firewalls. Looking at it objectively, which government in their right mind would allow their citizens to share their darkest secrets with, and open their minds to, unknown people from anywhere on the globe, and with unknown motivations?

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re "which government in their right mind would allow their citizens to..."

      ...collaborate with like minded others and undermine their tyranny?

      1. ILikeDrinkingBeer Bronze badge

        Re: Re "which government in their right mind would allow their citizens to..."

        Interesting point, but maintaining a state of tyranny is more than just removing access to communications technology. Having access to that technology then doesn't necessarily mean that citizens will find their independent voice and cohesion, as tyranny is mostly mind control.

        I was also referring to the inability of those citizens to reach arbitrary external websites and services, not internal ones.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      "which government in their right mind would allow their citizens to share their darkest secrets with, and open their minds to, unknown people from anywhere on the globe, and with unknown motivations?"

      Any government that can probably access most of the above.

      Probably more than you think.

      1. ILikeDrinkingBeer Bronze badge

        It's true - we think that we, in developed countries are freely accessing an open internet of resources and services, but our government is certainly at least aware of what we are up to, and also most likely using this state of naivety to influence its own citizens.

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Looking at Things Differently Provides Surreal Alternate Solutions for Sublime Resolutions

      Frankly, countries like Russia and China might have the right idea with their various nation-level firewalls. Looking at it objectively, which government in their right mind would allow their citizens to share their darkest secrets with, and open their minds to, unknown people from anywhere on the globe, and with unknown motivations? ..... ILikeDrinkingBeer

      The surely more urgent question to ask for an answer, should there be one, is how on Earth are you planning to prevent it as it happens all around you?

      No Secrets means No Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap to Hide Away from and Provide. Such is Remarkably Surprising and Extremely Liberating ...... and a Great Resourceful Force to Trifle with and Joust against in Live AI Fields ...... NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive Territory in Advanced IntelAIgent Terrain ..... Novel Noble Presents with Future Engagements Deployed for Employment and Enjoyment/Use and Reward.

      I do realise that some can see such things somewhat worryingly differently ..... but that is their cross to bear and furrow to plough and sow with seeds that prosper and grow to provide magnificent heavenly bounty.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Pointed in the wrong direction

      China's Great Firewall is designed to prevent egress, not ingress.

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    > The UK derives strength from its many alliances and has conducted offensive cyber-ops since the early 2000s. But a lack of talent, inability to match the scale of investments made by China and the United States, and small industrial base mean it can manage risks but not export tech to the world.

    Is this a think tank or a think barrel?

    - There is a lack of talent willing to work for pittance

    - China can make sure that the talent will work for pittance

    - The tech, as in the hardware, is often outsourced as cost to manufacture something locally can be 10 times higher than in Asia.

    Basically, we have a poor pay and a culture of having big corporations getting away with anything, as corruption is thriving.

    1. fajensen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      - China can make sure that the talent will work for pittance

      But, why would it? China doesn't have to follow western principles of meanness and penny pinching!

      China has it's own currency, it has it's own central bank, huge industrial base, lots of hot men and wimmen with fewer principles, and, China is not infested with Chicago School of Economics brain-rotting neoliberalism demanding that all wages other than CEO's and stockholders dividens must go to Zero or we will all Die Screaming in the Flames of Gehenna - or something.

      China can reward it's talent very well indeed, for very little real costs, maybe even throw an imported German car on top of the pile of "internal goods & services" available for a clever and motivated person that knows where the lines are. There is nothing that anyone can do about it. Except have the Murdoch press write angry articles about how China is juuust about to collapse aaany day now.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Well, if you look at it this way, the Soviet Union used to build entire cities specifically for engineers and made sure they had everything they could ask for.

        Those cities were also not that far from Gulags, in case engineers didn't like the special treatment.

        Look where Soviet Union is now...

      2. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        "...China is not infested with Chicago School of Economics brain-rotting neoliberalism...."

        Wrong. They have more than a few that received their degree from the UChicago itself including the head of the PBOC at one time or another. You pretty much have to be an economist or operate in the central banks circle of Hell.

  8. sawatts

    "Think Tank"

    Any body calling itself a "Think Tank" is a huge red flag.

    "Think Tanks" do not exist to come up with new innovative ideas, but to find ways to sell their sponsors' agenda which would otherwise be untenable. "Weasel Words Factory" may be a more accurate description.

    (of course, depends on whether the term has been added by the media rather than the body in question)

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    Guesswork

    Really, who knows.

    Its often difficult accurately identifying an attacker (misdirection is a thing).

    Hard to know how well key "cyber" infrastructure in a given country is defended unless you try and attack it!

    You have no idea what weapons are in someone's arsenal until they actually use them (and that attack actually gets detected..)

    I certainly would not underestimate the capabilities Russia, China and Israel, for example, may have

  10. Dave 15 Silver badge

    and all the time

    All the time our stupid brainless civil servants pay yet another foreign company far too much to outsource the technology development to somewhere cheap and nasty we fall ever further behind.

  11. 502 bad gateway
    IT Angle

    Really?

    Has anyone else noticed the contradiction and possibly the conceit? The contradiction being to describe such an organisation as a think tank having made a conceited assumption that such an organisation is well placed to judge international cyber capabilities. Did they send in well intentioned letters requesting details of each nation states offensive and defensive capabilities. I'm sure the answers on a post card would be truthful and complete. Or did they assume that everything that goes on is reported in national dailies? Where was this group when Russia spent the best part of a year rifling through all the top US government agencies computer systems, unnoticed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny isn't it that the piece in El Reg...and maybe the report itself......doesn't mention.........

    .........snooping on citizens! You know....the STASI in Cheltenham and Ford Meade, MD.

    *

    Fantastic "cyber capabilities" to read everyone's email and snoop on phone metadata!!

    *

    Fantastic backdoors embedded in Cisco Systems kit!!

    *

    Fantastic software from our "friends" at NSO, Israel.....dedicated to hacking so called "end-to-end encryption" on any iPhone on the planet!!

    *

    Yes......the PRIMARY enemy is REALLY private citizens who are living honest, law-abiding lives....................

    *

    ..........and maybe the spooks -- once in a while -- get to worry about Russia, China, Iran.....and other "second tier" problems!!

    *

    Democracy and privacy and security......all undermined using our taxpayer dollars....and we are attacked by our own governments. Go figure!!

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Funny isn't it that the piece in El Reg...and maybe the report itself......doesn't mention

      And the Master Pilot Plan for Operations with Total Information Awareness from the likes of a STASI in Cheltenham and Ford Meade, MD.?

      They do have a Master Pilot Plan which can be shared freely, surely? You're not going to try and tell us all here that they haven't got loads of them? Strewth, WTF have they been doing with what they know is recorded?

  13. SotarrTheWizard
    Mushroom

    As noted. . .

    . . . .this is looking at national-level activities. As in, run by your local flavor of .gov.

    But, overall, while .US may have a massive offensive cyber infrastructure (at least I hope they do, if not, why am I paying taxes for "Cyber Command" ??? ), defensively, we're crap.

    The best allegory I can think of, is World War 2 Tanks. The US is a German Tiger II Panzer. Superb gun, amazing armor, technologically sophisticated. . . . and breaks down every 20 miles or so.

    As opposed to the Russians, Chinese, etc, who bring massive fleets of T-34s to the field. Because Quantity has a Quality all its' own. And they rely on constantly Zerging targets. . . .

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The next Cyber war..

    “I know not with what technology the next Cyber war will be fought,

    but the Cyber war proceeding that will be fought using stone tablets.”

    (with apologies to mr. Einstein)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The next Cyber war..

      No, you mean the Cyber war proceeding that will be fought using Lotus Notes on AS/400, because that will still be running when the stone tablets have broken and no-one will have approved a business case for upgrading from it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tier 2 is the most flexible.

    I appreciate they wouldn't get paid for saying Britain and it's NATO allies are slightly crap but there's a Tier 2A with China, Russia and Israel who have been getting their hands dirty for decades and a Tier 2B who've been talking the talk and asking for the budgets (and possibly a Tier 2C for Australia).

  16. Captain Kephart

    Ha!

    I've just written a report that says I'm the top super cyberpower ... so there!

    Oh, wait a minute, you mean I have to prove it? oh-oh ...

    PS: Brits trying to big up the 'special relationship' to please Biden?

    Incidentally this morning, re Afghanistan withdrawal, the chair of the UK's Foreign Affairs Select Committee just said publicly that the British Army was now useless on the world stage and that, therefore, PM Boris Johnson's 'Global Britian' bluster was meaningless. In effect the Chair said that the UK had lost the confidence of it's allies and gained the derision of its adversaries.

    What, reality striking at the heart of Brexit Britain? Surely not ...

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