China most active in cyber espionage against U.S.: Coats

FBI Director Christopher Wray; CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrive with other U.S. intelligence community officials to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia and China pose the biggest espionage and cyber attack threats to the United States and are more aligned than they have been in decades, the director of national intelligence told U.S. senators in testimony on worldwide threats on Tuesday.

While the two countries seek to expand their global reach, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in prepared testimony, some American allies are pulling away from Washington in reaction to changing U.S. policies on security and trade, he said.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways – to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” Coats said.

In his remarks, Coats also said U.S. adversaries likely are already looking to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election, refining their capabilities and adding new tactics.

He said Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing politicians perceived to be anti-Russia.

Senator Mark Warner, the panel’s top Democrat, said in his opening statement that he was particularly concerned about Russia’s use of social media “to amplify divisions in our society and to influence our democratic processes” and the threat from China in the technology arena.

The United States on Monday announced criminal charges against China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, escalating a fight with the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker and coming days before trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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