The United States remains the global leader in cyber capabilities, retaining its “clear superiority” over other nations, but China may soon leave the “second-tier” of cyber power with its growing digital infrastructure, according to a new report.

The “Cyber Capabilities and National Power: A Net Assessment” report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) assessed 15 countries’ cyber capabilities and how they contribute to national power.

“Dominance in cyberspace has been a strategic goal of the United States since the mid-1990s. It is the only country with a heavy global footprint in both civil and military uses of cyberspace,” the report says. “The U.S. retains a clear superiority over all other countries in terms of its ICT [information and communications technology] empowerment, but this is not a monopoly position.”

“The U.S. capability for offensive cyber operations is probably more developed than that of any other country, although its full potential remains largely undemonstrated,” it adds.

According to the report, the United States is alone in the first tier, followed by seven countries in the second tier: China, Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Israel, and the U.K.

“China is a second-tier cyber power but, given its growing industrial base in digital technology, it is the state best placed to join the U.S. in the first tier,” the report says.

Although China is in second place to the United States, the report says the nation’s cyber defenses “remain weak compared with those of the United States,” and it needs to further develop its critical national infrastructure.

The report says the United States is set apart from other nations when it comes to offensive cyber due to “its ability to employ a sophisticated, surgical capability at scale.” The United States also had the advantage of investing in cyber early and heavily, compared to countries such as China and Russia. Additionally, the U.S. benefits from close alliances with other “cyber-capable states.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.