US ‘Lone Wolf’ Cyber Attacks: From Cyber Hegemony to Isolation

In recent years, the United States has become notorious for relying on its technological advantages and hegemonic position to carry out “lone wolf” cyber attacks on other countries, including its allies. However, as the differences between the interests of the U.S. and its allies in cyberspace become increasingly apparent and tensions with non-allied countries increasingly escalate, its cyber deterrence strategy has reached the end of the road.

Cyber Hegemony in the Name of an ‘Open Internet’

In April 2022, the U.S. launched what is known as the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet.” As we all know, the original intention of this declaration was not really to fight for the openness of the internet, but to fight for the United States in the name of “Internet openness,” and what it seeks is not in the interest of the internet but in the interest of the U.S. At the same time, the U.S. has been carrying out indiscriminate cyber attacks and stealing secrets on a global scale. It constantly fabricates various stories of “security reports” and hypes the issue of Chinese cyber espionage. It seems that the U.S. has put the idea of the pot calling the kettle black to good use.

In June 2022, the APT-C-40 (Equation) group supported by the U.S. National Security Agency launched an attack on Northwestern Polytechnical University and stole core technical data including vital network configurations as well as network management, operation and maintenance data. Forty-one kinds of special offensive network tools and equipment were used, with 14 different versions of the backdoor tool, “DoubleFantasy,” alone. In July 2023, the hacker group associated with the NSA used “Second Date” spyware to carry out a cyber attack on the Wuhan Earthquake Monitoring Center. A report released by Pangu Lab showed that the NSA-linked Equation Group had used top-tier backdoors to carry out “Operation Telescreen” for more than a decade in 45 countries and regions around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. This far exceeded what was publicly reported by the United States.

Taking Advantage of Technological Resources To Blatantly Steal Data around the World

The U.S. has long used its technological advantage to carry out activities like hijacking network traffic, man-in-the-middle attacks and the insertion of malicious code by exploiting backdoor vulnerabilities and also monopolies on operating systems. They’ve carried out precision content filtering and automated hijacking of massive amounts of global data to achieve various goals such as the man-in-the-middle attacks, network traffic sniffing and network session tracking. Western media disclosed that the NSA remotely intercepted 97 billion emails and 124 billion phone records around the world in a 30-day period.

This included 500 million interceptions from Germany, 70 million from France and 60 million from Spain. It monitored the leaders of 35 countries, keeping former German Chancellor Angela Merkel under surveillance for 11 years. In June 2023, foreign security vendors disclosed that the NSA had used multiple zero-day vulnerabilities to target mobile devices around the world that run on Apple’s iOS operating system. It used zero-click vulnerabilities to infect via the iMessage platform and gain complete control over devices and user data through multiple exploits.

Joint progress and collaboration are inevitable trends of the age; thus, cyber dominance represents a serious departure, a threat to the common well-being of people around the world. The U.S. cyber-deterrence strategy goes against modern social development. Countries around the world should seek greater and deeper cooperation, strive for the greatest common denominator of mutually beneficial, win-win cooperation in cyberspace and promote reform and improvement of the international rules and governance mechanisms of cyberspace by building a community with a shared future in cyberspace, to better meet the common interests of nations.

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