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Chinese hackers preparing to ‘wreak havoc’ on US infrastructure, FBI chief warns | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a stark warning on Wednesday (local time) about the looming threat posed by Chinese hackers to the critical infrastructure of the United States, CNN reported.

“China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities if or when China decides the time has come to strike,” Wray told the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

Wray said that the Chinese government-backed hackers are strategically positioning themselves within American infrastructure, focusing on targets such as water treatment plants, electrical grids, and oil and natural gas pipelines.
He asserted that these cyber actors are actively working to identify and prepare for potential attacks on civilian critical infrastructure, emphasising the tangible threat cyber intrusions pose to the physical safety and prosperity of the nation.
The Chinese hackers are working “to find and prepare to destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous,” Wray said, adding, “And let’s be clear: cyber threats to our critical infrastructure represent real-world threats to our physical safety.”

The Chinese government has previously denied allegations of hacking efforts, as reported by CNN.
While acknowledging China’s denial of hacking allegations, Wray pointed out that the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in US technology have made it easier for Chinese hackers to exploit basic flaws.

Jen Easterly, head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, supported this view, noting that decades of prioritising features and speed to market over security have left critical infrastructure inherently insecure.
The hearing took place amid ongoing efforts by US and Chinese officials to ease tensions between the two superpowers.

Recent diplomatic exchanges, including assurances from Chinese President Xi Jinping to President Joe Biden regarding non-interference in the 2024 US election, have attempted to improve relations. However, Wray remained sceptical of such promises, stating, “China’s promised a lot of things over the years, so I’ll guess I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The focus of the hearing extended beyond the immediate concern of the US elections to the broader issue of Chinese hackers infiltrating key US infrastructure. Wray emphasised that China’s cyber operatives had exploited fundamental flaws in US technology, and the ease of their intrusion had raised serious security concerns.

Recent actions by the US Justice Department and FBI revealed attempts to counter the persistent threat of Chinese hacking. Federal law enforcement utilised court orders to remove malicious code from hundreds of devices central to the Chinese hacking campaign targeting sensitive US critical infrastructure. However, despite these efforts, Chinese hackers are believed to be deeply embedded in US infrastructure, presenting an ongoing challenge.

Wray highlighted the sheer scale of the challenge, noting that China’s cyber operatives outnumber FBI agents by at least 50 to 1. Gen Paul Nakasone, head of the National Security Agency, emphasised the need for continuous vigilance, characterising the threat as persistent and not episodic.

In concluding his testimony, Wray broadened the scope of China’s efforts, warning that their actions extend beyond technology. He cautioned that China targets American freedoms, reaching inside US borders to silence, coerce, and threaten citizens and residents across the nation, CNN reported.

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