Near the entrance of a hospital in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)
Near the entrance of a hospital in the west of Ireland, a country hit hard by a recent cyber attack (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN  — Despite long-running allegations of Chinese hacking of Western governments and businesses, Beijing’s “cyber power” is “clearly inferior” to that of its chief rival, the US, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The IISS, which regularly stages conferences involving some of the world’s most powerful defence ministries, said on Monday that China is “unlikely to match US cyber capabilities for the next decade at least.”

The US is out on its own as the world’s leading cyber power, the IISS said in a new 174-page report looking at the “cyber capabilities” of 15 countries.

The study ranked China in the second tier with Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Israel and Russia – the latter allegedly the source of a May ransomware attack that crippled Ireland’s health service.

And despite growing concerns about state-sponsored hacking and cyber crime masterminded from Pyongyang, North Korea was listed among a third rung of countries with “strengths or potential strengths in some categories but significant weaknesses in others.”

Others in the mostly Asian third tier include India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, with the IISS concluding that “advanced industrial economies” have “significant cyber advantages” that could assuage Western concerns about falling behind authoritarian or less-developed rivals.

The IISS said national cyber power is based in part on the “ability to attract venture capital and tech skills” and allowing digital businesses to flourish – economic conditions it says are more likely to prevail in the US and its allies.

However the US “cannot be complacent,” the IISS warned, due to “the growing strength of China’s digital economy.”

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