Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Chinese hackers infiltrated critical US infrastructure, prepared for disruptive attacks: FBI chief

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The head of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says that Chinese hackers have purportedly burrowed into critical US infrastructure, waiting for “the right moment” to launch their disruptive attacks.

FBI Director Chris Wray alleged that Chinese government-linked hackers had already infiltrated critical infrastructure of the US and were waiting “for just the right moment to deal a devastating blow.”

During a speech delivered at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday, the FBI chief claimed that an ongoing Chinese hacking campaign – known as Volt Typhoon – had successfully burrowed into numerous American companies in telecommunications, energy, water and other critical sectors, with 23 pipeline operators targeted.

Wray further said at the 2024 Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats that China was allegedly developing the “ability to physically wreak havoc on our critical infrastructure at a time of its choosing.”

“Its plan is to land low blows against civilian infrastructure to try to induce panic,” he further claimed.

Wray’s allegations came as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian stressed on Monday that Volt Typhoon hacker group is a ransomware cybercriminal organization without state or regional support background.

Lin also noted at the time that it is known to all that the US is the biggest source of cyber attacks and the biggest threat to cyber security. 

Separately, the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement that “some in the US have been using origin-tracing of cyber attacks as a tool to hit and frame China, claiming the US to be the victim while it’s the other way round, and politicizing cyber security issues.”

Wray speculated that the hacking effort is connected to US-Chinese tensions around Taiwan, a self-ruled island that is considered by China as part of its own territory.

Last year, the Director of National Intelligence alleged that Beijing was attempting to build the capability to deter possible US intervention in a crisis between China and Taiwan by 2027.

The FBI chief, however, stressed that it was no longer correct to expect threats from China to be executed in the long term as some of the planning for that possibility is being carried out now.

“A few years ago, we might have said China represents the most significant long-term threat. That’s no longer the best way to describe the danger,” Wray alleged. 

The rivalry between the US and China has intensified in recent years, with Beijing’s growing international clout and rapid economic progress emerging as a viable counter-weight to the US.

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