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FBI director warns of hacking threat in China| GuyWhoKnowsThings


Christopher A. Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned Wednesday that China was escalating an extensive hacking operation aimed at bringing down the U.S. power grid, oil pipelines and water systems in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. .

Wray, appearing before a House subcommittee on China, offered an alarming assessment of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts. They are intended to sow confusion, undermine America's will to fight and hamper the deployment of resources by the US military if the dispute over Taiwan, a major flashpoint between the two superpowers, turns into a war, he added.

Before their testimony, FBI and Justice Department officials revealed that last month they had obtained a court order authorizing them to gain access to servers infiltrated by Volt Typhoon, a Beijing-run hacking network that has targeted a number of critical infrastructure systems, often infiltrating small businesses, contractors, or local government networks.

“Chinese hackers are positioning themselves in American infrastructure preparing to wreak havoc and cause real-world damage. to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike,” said Wray, who pressured the committee to increase funding for the office.

“Low blows against civilians are part of China's plan,” he added.

Volt Typhoon hackers compromised hundreds of Cisco and NetGear routers, many of them outdated models that were no longer supported by manufacturer updates or security patches, in an effort to build up an army of sleeper cells that would activate in the event of crisis.

In May, US officials warned companies, local governments and foreign allies that the group was targeting “networks in critical infrastructure sectors of the United States” and was likely to apply the same techniques against other countries.

The operation was stopped before it affected the “legitimate functions” of the infrastructure agencies and the Chinese do not appear to have collected “content information” from the routers.

The government is informing the team's owners, officials said.

Wray said a major obstacle to countering Chinese hacking operations was the reluctance of small business owners and local governments to report suspicious activity on their networks to the FBI, which could “prevent the attack from metastasizing to others.” sectors and other companies”.

Also on Wednesday, the department released an indictment against four Chinese nationals. 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 restrictions on the export of military technology to the Islamic Republic.

The suspects, all of whom live in China, are accused of using front companies to funnel components that could be used to build drones and ballistic missile systems to Iran from 2007 until at least 2020, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court. in Washington.

As a result, a “large amount” of American technology was diverted to Iran, prosecutors said. They did not specify the potential harm to national security.

In recent months, the FBI and the Justice Department have stepped up their warnings about malicious activities by China, Iran and Russia inside the United States. They include murder-for-hire plots against dissidents, efforts to infiltrate U.S. law enforcement agencies, election interference, intellectual property theft and online breaches like those Wray and cybersecurity officials identified at Wednesday's hearing.

Wray has for years emphasized the threat from China, describing it as existential.

“It is a threat to our economic security and, by extension, our national security,” Wray said. he said in 2020.

China has often targeted the weakest links in the country's business and government networks, particularly outdated home office routers that allow them to hack into more sophisticated computer systems, officials said.

The goal is to “induce social panic” to discourage the United States from supporting Taiwan or more aggressively confronting Beijing on other geopolitical and economic issues, said Jen Easterly, director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Easterly suggested that Beijing officials may have been motivated to focus on civilian infrastructure after the 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline by a Russian hacking collective.

“Imagine that on a massive scale: imagine not one pipeline, but many disrupted pipelines,” he said. “Telecommunications are going down and people can't use their cell phones. People are starting to get sick from contaminated water. Trains derail.”

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

American hackers target China's military and government servers, but have historically avoided the type of infrastructure attacks led by Beijing, said Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, outgoing commander of the U.S. Cyber ​​Command.

“Cyber ​​actors responsible for democracies like ours do not attack civilian infrastructure,” he said. “There is no reason for them to be in our water. There is no reason for them to be in our possession. It's about an actor's decision to really focus on civilian targets. “That's not what we do.”


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