Donald Trump’s former top security official tonight rang fresh alarm bells about the rising cyber threat from Russia and China.
General HR McMaster, who was the then President’s National Security Adviser, told MPs and peers the UK should guard against potential web attacks launched by the powers.
With everyday household systems such as radiators, fridges and lights increasingly linked to home WiFi devices, the potential for attackers to hack homes was growing, warned the retired US Army officer.
Giving evidence to Parliament’s Joint Committee on National Security Strategy, Gen McMaster outlined four key areas that could be targeted.
He listed “direct threats to infrastructure” such as power plants, hospitals and transport hubs, before highlighting the risk from “cyber criminality”.
He said: “We see how cyber criminality, like ransomware attacks that North Korea and Russia are good at, can place our infrastructure at risk – this is where they overlap.”
Cyber espionage was also a growing threat, with hackers trying to steal corporate secrets, he said.
“This is where maybe China has the lead, with Advanced Persistence Threat 10 (a cyber espionage group) extracting our most sensitive intellectual priority and technologies,” he said.
“Fourthly, there is cyber-enabled information warfare which Russia is the best at but China is getting better at and Iran and others are engaged in.”
He went on: “We now know there is not a bold line between the four types of cyber threats with which we ought to be concerned.
“The way to think about these threats is within categories, but to recognise these categories overlap with one another.”
The General said more joined-up working between public and private bodies was crucial to tackling the threats.
“An integrated approach to each of these problem sets is immensely important,” he said over a video link.
“The threats are increasing, cyber actors are getting better and better, and it’s a skillset that is transferable, ultimately to non-state actors who are much more difficult to deter.
“The surface area of these attacks is growing by an order of magnitude as our digital environment grows and we pursue the internet of things.
“This an area where there is much room for improvement, but I think a positive environment for much better cooperation.”
MPs and peers on the National Security Strategy Committee are taking evidence from a host of experts during an ongoing inquiry into how to bolster British defences.
Gen McMaster was Mr Trump’s top security aide from February 2017 to March 2018 when he quit after reportedly falling out with the President over over Iran, Russia and North Korea.