Monday, May 20, 2024

Foreign hackers have been nestling in U.S. critical infrastructure for years – Panda Security

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Multiple government agencies issued a joint statement confirming that Chinese hackers have been lurking within critical U.S. infrastructure for half a decade. The joint advisory released on Feb 7th, 2024, confirmed that People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-sponsored foreign actors managed to infiltrate facilities primarily in the Communications, Energy, Transportation Systems, and Water and Wastewater Systems sectors. 

Global reach and strategic positioning

Cybercriminals have been in place to react in case of a conflict between the two world superpowers. The hackers have been able to position themselves not only in continental and non-continental U.S. facilities. But also in structures located in U.S. territories around the world, such as Guam. This continues further as the infrastructure facilities of U.S. ally countries. Such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are also noted as affected. 

Ongoing threat amidst geopolitical tensions

This is not the first time U.S. security agencies have released such an advisory. Just a week earlier, FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly admitted that China-backed cyber gangs are capable of wreaking “havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities”. In case of geopolitical tensions and or military actions between the two global superpowers and their allies. What surprises the intelligence agencies is that hackers have stayed unnoticed for years. Meaning China has worked on such projects reasonably long. 

Imbalance in cyber resources

In the same public appearance, the FBI director said Chinese hackers vastly outnumber FBI agents. Wray reiterated figures from last year indicating that China surpasses the U.S. in available agents by a margin of at least 50 to 1. He briefly remarked that even if the FBI were to allocate all of its agents to this specific issue, they would still find themselves outnumbered by the cyber warfare personnel of the world’s second most populous country.

This underscores the significant gap in cyber threat response capabilities between the two nations.
Such data underscores the need for appropriate strategies and resources to address digital security challenges on an international scale.

Ambiguous motives and unprecedented admission

They are determining whether the FBI Director is just using publicity tactics and lobbying for more funding for security agencies. Or if it is openly admitting tangible security risks and the growing weakness of U.S.-based security agencies.

It certainly is a rarity for a person of such rank to openly acknowledge that the U.S. authoring agencies have had foreign adversaries. Possibly referring to the gang Volt Typhoon. Maintaining access and footholds within some crucial I.T. environments for over half a decade. 

China’s intentions: Strategic preparation or mimicry?

It is still being determined whether China is pre-positioning itself for a future conflict or simply copying tactics already used by Western intelligence agencies. No one knows for sure. But it is undoubtedly terrifying to know that hackers pledging allegiance to another country are deeply interested and possibly capable of threatening U.S. infrastructure.

What is even scarier is knowing that such agents might be able to strike from within the Home of the Brave. As there is no guarantee that foreign agents weren’t among the millions of people who entered the U.S. illegally last year.

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