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FBI director warns of threat of hacking by China

FBI director warns of threat of hacking by China

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher A. Wray warned on Wednesday that China is stepping up a widespread hacking operation to destroy the United States' power grid, oil pipelines and water systems in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.

Mr. Ray appeared before a House subcommittee on China and presented a worrying assessment of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts. He said it was intended to create confusion, sap the United States' will to fight, and prevent the U.S. military from deploying resources if the dispute over Taiwan, a major flashpoint between the two superpowers, escalates into war. Changes, he said.

Ahead of his testimony, FBI and Justice Department officials revealed that last month, they had obtained a court order that authorized them to gain access to servers infiltrated by the Beijing-directed hacking network Volt Typhoon, Which has often targeted many critical infrastructure systems. By infiltrating small businesses, contractors or local government networks.

“China's hackers are deploying on US infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world damage For American citizens and communities, if or when China Decides it's time to strike,'' said Mr. Ray, who pressed the committee to increase funding for the bureau.

“Less attacks on civilians are part of China's plan,” he said.

For Volt Typhoon, hackers compromised hundreds of Cisco and Netgear routers, many of them older models no longer supported by manufacturer updates or security patches, in an effort to embed an army of sleeper cells that would activate in a crisis.

In May, US officials Warned businesses, local governments and foreign partners The group was targeting “networks in US critical infrastructure areas” and was likely to apply the same techniques against other countries.

The operation was stopped before it could impact the “legitimate functions” of infrastructure agencies and it appears that the Chinese did not collect “content information” from the routers.

Officials said the government is notifying the owners of the equipment.

Mr. Wray said a major obstacle to combating Chinese hacking campaigns was the reluctance of small business owners and local governments to notify the FBI of suspicious activity on their networks, which “could prevent the attack from spreading to other areas and other businesses.” Was.”

Apart from this, on Wednesday the department also opened a case against four Chinese citizens. They are accused of operating a years-long conspiracy to smuggle electronic components from the United States to Iran, in violation of long-standing sanctions and embargoes on the export of military technology to the Islamic Republic.

According to the indictment in federal district court in Washington, the suspects, who all reside in China, are accused of running front companies to funnel components that could be used to make drone and ballistic missile systems into Iran from 2007 to at least 2020. Has been accused of using.

Prosecutors said that as a result, “large quantities” of American technology were shipped to Iran. He did not elaborate on the potential harm to national security.

In recent months, the FBI and Justice Department have stepped up their warnings about malicious activity by China, Iran, and Russia inside the United States. These include assassination plots against dissidents, attempts to infiltrate US law enforcement agencies, election interference, intellectual property theft and online violations such as those Mr. Wray and cybersecurity officials identified at the hearing on Wednesday.

Mr Ray has stressed the threat from China for years, describing it as existential.

“This is a threat to our economic security – and by extension, to our national security,” Mr Ray Said in 2020.

Officials said China often targets the weakest links in the country's business and government networks, particularly older home-office routers that allow them to hack into more sophisticated computer systems.

Jane Easterly, director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the goal is to “create societal panic” to dissuade the United States from supporting Taiwan or confronting Beijing more aggressively on other geopolitical and economic issues. Can be discouraged.

Ms Easterly suggested that officials in Beijing may have been prompted to focus on civilian infrastructure following a 2021 ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline by the Russian hacking group.

“Imagine that on a large scale – imagine not one pipeline, but multiple pipelines being disrupted,” she said. “Telecommunications are being shut down due to which people are not able to use their cellphones. People start falling ill due to polluted water. Trains derail.”

Beijing has long denied targeting US civilian infrastructure, and senior Chinese officials recently told the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, that they would not influence the outcome of the 2024 election by infiltrating networks.

Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the late commander of the United States Cyber ​​Command, said American hackers target China's military and government servers, but have historically avoided infrastructure attacks directed by Beijing.

“Responsible cyber actors in democracies like ours do not target civilian infrastructure,” he said. “There is no reason for them to be in our waters. There is no reason for them to be in our power. It is actually an actor's decision to focus on civilian goals. We don't do that.”

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