Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the National Security Agency and the military's newly created Cyber Command, told a House committee on Tuesday that over the last six months, there has been more than 160 disruptive attacks on banks, according to reporting from The Washington Post. Government officials have said they believe the denial of service attacks have originated from Iran.
Intelligence officials have identified China as a major source of computer espionage against the U.S. Recent attacks on major U.S. news agencies have been traced to China.
The Chinese government denies being behind cyber attacks on the U.S., and claims its own military and government agencies are under constant attack.
The Obama administration has called on China to join it at the bargaining table to develop new rules governing behavior in cyber space. At the same time, the U.S. has been strengthening its defensive and offensive tools.
Alexander told the House Armed Services Committee that 13 teams of programmer and computer experts were being formed to take offensive action against foreign nations, if the U.S. came under a major attack.
Such tough action is the best strategy for getting China to the bargaining table, said Stewart Baker, the former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security. Baker is now a partner at the international law firm Steptoe & Johnson.
"This is not a problem that can be solved with negotiation, at least not until China decides it can do better by negotiating than by continuing its current tactics," Baker said. "We will be negotiating from weakness until we demonstrate a capability that China fears. That means, inevitably, that we'll be in an arms race for quite a while."