Chinese hackers are preparing to 'wreak havoc' on US electrical grids, water treatment plants, and oil and gas pipelines: FBI director

Advertisement
Chinese hackers are preparing to 'wreak havoc' on US electrical grids, water treatment plants, and oil and gas pipelines: FBI director
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Capitol Hill on January 31, 2024 in Washington, DC.Kevin Dietsch
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of the threat posed by Chinese hackers.
  • He said hackers were targeting critical US infrastructure.
Advertisement

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Chinese hackers are targeting critical US infrastructure in a bid to potentially "wreak havoc" on the lives of ordinary Americans in testimony to Congress.

This stuff matters — Officials think Beijing is gearing up to target basic services that will impact almost everyone in the US, including access to power and clean water.

Speaking to the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday, Wray said that China is seeking to infiltrate electrical grids, water treatment plants, oil and gas networks, and transport systems.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

"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," said Wray.

"They're not focused just on political and military targets. We can see from where they position themselves across civilian infrastructure that low blows are just a possibility in the event of a conflict; low blows against civilians are part of China's plan."

Advertisement

Wray's testimony comes after the Justice Department announced that it had disrupted a group of Chinese hackers who infiltrated old routers belonging to private citizens and small businesses.

China is seeking to oust the US as the world's most powerful country, say analysts, and is its using military, diplomatic, economic, and intelligence capabilities to do so.

Despite US President Joe Biden and China's leader Xi Jinping seeking to smooth relations at a recent meeting in San Francisco, deep tensions remain over issues including Taiwan, the Ukraine war, and the South China Sea.

China, Wray said, has hacking capability greater than all other countries combined, and even if the FBI deployed all its cyber agents to focus on China its hackers would still outnumber them 50-1.

If there is a flare-up between the US and China over, for example, Taiwan, China could exploit its infiltration of US infrastructure to disable swaths of the everyday services many Americans take for granted and sew chaos, warned committee members.

Advertisement

"This is the cyberspace equivalent of placing bombs on American bridges, water treatment facilities, and power plants," committee chairman Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said, according to CNN.

"There is no economic benefit for these actions. There's no pure intelligence-gathering rationale. The sole purpose is to be ready to destroy American infrastructure, which would inevitably result in chaos, confusion, and potentially mass casualties."

The House select committee Wray testified to was created to counter the intensified threat posed by China, a rare example of bipartisan consensus amid Washington's stark partisan divides.

{{}}