Russia, China, and other nations that have launched cyberattacks against the United States do not fear retribution and see no reason to change their behavior, the nominee to head the U.S. Cyber Command said.
Army Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1 that cyberthreats against the country have grown significantly, and the United States must impose costs on online "adversaries" to make them stop.
"They don't fear us," said Nakasone, 54. "It is not good."
"I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior," he said. "They don't think much will happen."
His comments echoed statements by the current cybercommander, Admiral Mike Rogers, in testimony before the same committee on February 27.
"I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there's little price to pay and that therefore, 'I can continue this activity'," Rogers said.
"Clearly, what we have done hasn't been enough" to deter Russia, he said. "They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior."
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking internal Democratic party e-mails and waging an online disinformation campaign on social-media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Intelligence chiefs recently warned that Russia is using the same tactics to try to influence the midterm congressional elections in November 2018.
China, Iran, and other nations have also been accused of staging cyberattacks on U.S. facilities and government targets, although they have not been accused like Russia of attempting to interfere in the U.S. political system.
Several senators asked Nakasone what the United States should do to combat nations that infiltrate government networks, steal data from contractors, or try to influence American elections.
"We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world," said Senator Dan Sullivan. "Should we start cranking up the costs of the cyberattacks on our nation?"
Nakasone, who currently leads U.S. Army Cyber Command and is expected to win confirmation in the Senate, was cautious when asked what to do.
He said he would provide a series of options to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, including alternatives that would involve actions other than retaliatory cyberattacks.
U.S. officials have said they could deal with nations that conduct cyberespionage in a number of ways, ranging from U.S. sanctions and regulatory actions to various diplomatic and military responses.
Nakasone also told lawmakers that the United States must build its own cyberdefense force and do what is needed to attract and retain the right people.
He said the Pentagon should offer incentives to attract people who have the necessary skills in computer languages, forensics, and other areas.