Cyber-power

Digital dominance

A new ranking of cyber-power throws up some surprises

CHINA HAS the world’s largest army. Russia wields the most tanks. America owns the fanciest satellites. But who has the most cyber-power? A new National Cyber Power Index by the Belfer Centre at Harvard University ranks 30 countries on their level of ambition and capability. Offensive cyber-power—the ability to do harm in or through computer networks—is one measure. But so too are the strength of a country’s defences, the sophistication of its cyber-security industry and its ability to spread and counter propaganda (see chart).

That America stands at the top of the list is not surprising. Its cyber-security budget for fiscal year 2020 stood at over $17bn and the National Security Agency (NSA), its signals-intelligence (SIGINT) agency, probably gets well over $10bn. The awesome scale of America’s digital espionage was laid bare in leaks by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, in 2013, which showed the agency hoovering up vast amounts of the world’s internet traffic and trying to weaken encryption standards.

China, in second place, has demonstrated a voracious appetite for commercial cyber-espionage abroad and an iron grip on the internet at home. Britain, whose National Cyber Security…