Cyber defense remains a priority in the Pacific as China, North Korea and other nations bolster their cyber capabilities.

“China is rapidly expanding and improving its cyberspace capabilities to meet their national and military objectives, as are others, including North Korea and Russia, not to mention rogue groups and individuals who are increasingly enabled by technology,” Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, testified March 25 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “These actors seek to exploit our vulnerabilities by gaining unauthorized access to our networks and infrastructure on a daily basis. Potential adversaries are actively probing critical infrastructure throughout the United States and in partner countries.”

He says, “Cyberspace is growing not only in its importance relative to the flow of global commerce but also in its importance to our ability to conduct military operations—making it an attractive target for those seeking to challenge the economic and security order. Cyber threats come from a diverse range of countries, organizations and individuals.”

North Korea now ranks highly among the threat leaders.

“North Korea employs computer hackers capable of conducting open-source intelligence collection, cyber espionage, and disruptive cyber attacks,” says Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.N. Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea.

“Several attacks on South Korea’s banking institutions over the past few years have been attributed to North Korea,” Scaparrotti testified. “Cyber warfare is an important asymmetric dimension of conflict that North Korea will probably continue to emphasize — in part because of its deniability and low relative costs.”

To help counter cyber threats, Locklear notes, Pacific Command has established the Joint Cyber Center-Pacific (Cyberpac), which plans, integrates, synchronizes and directs theater cyberspace operations.