Bolton Says U.S. Is Expanding Offensive Cyber Operations

National security adviser plays down talk of split with Trump on North Korea, says new summit is possible

White House national security adviser John Bolton discusses the economic impact of tariffs on Chinese goods at WSJ’s CFO Network meeting.

香蕉视频苹果下载WASHINGTON—The U.S. intends to expand offensive operations in cyberspace to counter digital economic espionage and other commercial hacks, White House national security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday, while also dismissing talk of a split with President Trump on North Korea and other hot spots.

Mr. Bolton said recent U.S. offensive cyber operations, conducted since Mr. Trump relaxed restrictions last year, had been primarily focused on stopping election interference. But the U.S. is now broadening its efforts to counter other attacks as well.

“We’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network annual meeting.

On other topics, Mr. Bolton dismissed reports of policy divisions between himself and Mr. Trump and played down their public differences on the significance of North Korea’s recent missile tests. Reports of a split, he said, have been stoked by U.S. adversaries and competitors. North Korea, Iran, China and Venezuela “have made a decision…to try to sow disinformation about the administration,” he said.

Mr. Bolton also said it is possible there will be another summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un over the country’s nuclear program, but the ball is in Pyongyang’s court. “We’re ready when they are,” he said.

香蕉视频苹果下载Messrs. Trump and Bolton have sometimes seemed to publicly differ in tone on national-security threats.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton says "stenographers" in the U.S. media pick up on "disinformation" about the Trump administration from North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia and China.

香蕉视频苹果下载Last month, the national security adviser said that North Korea had violated United Nations Security Council resolutions by launching short-range ballistic missiles. The next day, the president seemed to play down Pyongyang’s actions, saying in a tweet that “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, but not me.”

On Iran, Mr. Bolton has a long history as a hawk. Before joining the Trump administration, he had called for ousting the Tehran government. After two weeks of rising U.S.-Iran tensions last month, Mr. Trump personally intervened to put the brakes on any possible armed clash, a person familiar with the matter said.

“We’re not looking for regime change” in Iran, the U.S. president said during a visit to Japan in late May.

香蕉视频苹果下载On cybersecurity, Mr. Bolton declined to provide details of past or future U.S. cyber warfare operations, details of which are highly classified.

Mr. Trump last year rescinded a classified memorandum from his predecessor, Barack Obama, dictating when the U.S. government can deploy cyber weaponry. He replaced it with new classified guidance intended to give the Defense Department more power to launch offensive cyber strikes without first having to vet those decisions through an elaborate interagency process.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton says the U.S. will be boosting its cybersecurity defenses ahead of the 2020 presidential elections at WSJ's CFO Network Meeting.

The Trump administration has declined to make details about the new memorandum public, but Mr. Bolton acknowledged the new authorities were used during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. In one classified operation known as Synthetic Theology, for example, U.S. Cyber Command jammed servers belonging to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg, Russia, troll farm, according to people familiar with the operation.

香蕉视频苹果下载The Internet Research Agency played a major role in social-media campaigns aimed at U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential election, according to the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mr. Bolton acknowledged that U.S. cyber offensives wouldn’t end hacking sponsored by foreign powers, but he said they were designed to impose costs on the attackers. U.S. responses to cyberattacks wouldn’t necessarily be symmetrical—that is, a cyberattack might be met with a noncyber response, he said.

Addressing economically motivated hacking from foreign adversaries, particularly China, has been a top cybersecurity priority of the Trump administration. The Justice Department late last year unsealed a flurry of indictments blaming Beijing for a host of cyberattacks targeting a range of different industries, including aviation and information technology. Some government estimates calculate that China’s cybertheft costs the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

香蕉视频苹果下载The Obama administration sought to broker agreements with China to curtail its cybertheft, signing a 2015 bilateral accord that pledged not to engage in hacking for the purpose of economic espionage. China has been violating that agreement for at least the past 18 months, according to some private-sector cybersecurity analysts, and last November a senior National Security Agency official publicly accused the rival of violating that deal.

香蕉视频苹果下载In addition to Mr. Bolton, U.S. Cyber Command Commander and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone has also articulated a more aggressive cybersecurity posture referred to as “persistent engagement.” The goal is to be constantly watching adversaries in order to understand what they are doing and planning to do in cyberspace in order to be ready with appropriate responses, Mr. Nakasone has said.

Write to Warren P. Strobel at

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