Earlier this month, reports began circulating that accused China of conducting a major cyberattack on the Ukrainian military, and the country’s nuclear facilities, prior to Russia’s invasion. Hacking attempts were also launched against other institutions, including Ukraine’s national bank and railway authority. It appears the disruption or shutting down of Ukraine’s defense and critical infrastructure was the goal.
Some have speculated that Russia and China were working together against Ukraine at this time.
American Family News spoke to David Sauer, a retired senior CIA officer who served as chief of station and deputy chief of station in multiple overseas command positions in East Asia and South Asia.
China is most known for its cyber espionage activities, including the theft of intellectual property and trade secret. However, in this example, “we’re talking about the Chinese trying to massively attack or deny services critical to Ukraine’s military and infrastructure,” Sauer points out. “This,” he says, “is likely out of China’s sphere of influence but well within Russia’s usual activity.”
Regarding possible collaboration between the two countries, Sauer admits “it’s hard to draw a firm conclusion.” But in the hypothetical scenario that the China would have conducted some type of cyberattack on Ukraine, he says it would have taken a substantial coordination effort. “And [he suspects] that has never been done before.”
To that end, Russia may have been completely unaware of China’s efforts. In this scenario, the retired senior CIA officer indicates he "wouldn’t put it past [the Chinese regime] to test their capabilities in a real-life environment…making a possible test run for Taiwan, perhaps.”
If a series of cyberattacks and hacking efforts did occur days before Russia’s invasion, Sauer says, “the only ones who may ever know what happened are the Russians, the Chinese, and maybe some select people in the very heavily classified cyber world.”