Obama’s tepid response to the DNC hack and to Russia trying to influence the election may lead others, particularly China, to assume they can hack into U.S. systems without much blowback. All of this is complicated by the very nature of cyberspace. A huge DDOS attack against a US company coming from servers in China using Russian hacker software does not necessarily mean the attack came from China or Russia. It could have come from anywhere.
Fake news, distorted news, bot armies, humans being paid to swarm and attack opponents on social media – these are increasingly part of cyberspace, and what they do impacts non-cyberspace too.
The attacks we’ve seen so far are probably trivial compared to the attacks to come.
It was recently reported by cyber-security expert Bruce Schneier that someone is “learning how to take down the Internet,” which essentially means that a nation-state is “testing the ability to manipulate Internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services.” According to Schneier, the evidence “suggests China,” but it has not been established beyond doubt, due to possible disguise used by the state involved in that probing.
To be clear, the implications of the DNC hack transcend the bilateral relations of Russia and the US, and may include other actors who monitor the situation and evaluate their future actions vis-à-vis the US. This suggests that China is aware that the DNC hack was not accompanied by a real response on the US’s part. That observation may result in China examining the boundaries of what it can get away with in cyberspace.