Cybersecurity Targets in China’s New Five Year Plan

The details of China’s latest five year plan covering the period between 2016-2020 are expected to be released next month but early indications suggest it will focus upon reducing China’s reliance on foreign technology. Intelligence agencies and security researchers contend there is a strong correlation between industries targeted for growth by China and industries that suffer data breaches as a result of targeted attacks. For example, China’s last five year plan covering 2010-2015 focused upon sectors such as energy, healthcare and manufacturing. Over the same period, companies within these sectors experienced large-scale breaches that bore the hallmark of state-sponsored attacks. This includes organizations such as Anthem, US Steel, Medtronic and Westinghouse.

Since the new five year plan will launch during a period of unprecedented low growth in China, it is expected to lead to even more aggressive economic espionage in the form of cyber attacks against sectors targeted by China. This is likely to accelerate the shift from cyber attacks performed by criminal gangs for financial motives to state-sponsored cyber espionage driven by the strategic objectives of nation states.

According to the recently released Global Threat Report from CrowdStrike, the industry most at risk from China’s attention is energy. The new five year plan is expected to include objectives for building more nuclear power facilities, clean energy technology, and reducing China’s dependence on foreign oil. Next in line is transportation as China seeks to expand its airline and high speed rail industries, and domestic car production, including support for electric and hybrid transportation. Third is the public sector. China is expected to increases efforts to target foreign governments and think tanks in order to further its national interests. Fourth is the defense industry, particularly weapon systems, military personnel information, logistics, and technology related to aircraft carriers and drones. Fifth is the technology sector including the semiconductor industry, software source code, and social media applications that China is looking to replace with domestic versions. Other industries that are expected to feature heavily in the plan are healthcare, telecommunications, finance, manufacturing, media and agriculture. The Global Threat Report is available at crowdstrike.com.

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