FBI Director Warns That Chinese Hackers Are Preparing To Cause ‘Real-World Harm’ To US Infrastructure

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, warning that hackers associated with the Chinese government are actively targeting critical US infrastructure with the intent to cause harm in the real world. 

“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 congressional committee on Wednesday.

Wray emphasized that these cyberattacks were not limited to political and military targets, as Chinese hackers had positioned themselves across civilian infrastructure. Among the potential targets of state-sponsored hacking operations are water treatment plants, the electric grid, oil and natural gas pipelines, and transportation hubs.

According to Wray, China’s hackers are working “to find and prepare to destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous,” adding “And let’s be clear: Cyber threats to our critical infrastructure represent real-world threats to our physical safety.”

This revelation comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and China, involving issues such as the status of Taiwan, China’s military expansion, economic and technological competition, and human rights concerns. CNN reported on Tuesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping assured US President Joe Biden at a meeting in November that China would not interfere with the 2024 US election. This promise was echoed by the Chinese foreign minister to Biden’s national security adviser last weekend, the outlet also reported.

“China has promised a lot of things over the years. So, I guess I’ll believe it when I see it,” Wray responded, referring to Xi’s promise to Biden.

During the hearing, officials expressed confidence in the US election infrastructure, and they stressed that China’s espionage campaigns, intellectual property theft, and cyberattacks were undermining the United States. The US has previously accused China of state-sponsored hacking, which China has dismissed as “disinformation.”

General Paul Nakasone, commander of US Cyber Command, and other top federal cybersecurity officials also testified. Representative Mike Gallagher, the committee’s chairman, compared these cyberattacks to placing bombs on American infrastructure, with no apparent economic benefit or intelligence-gathering rationale.

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, noted that the US has detected and eliminated Chinese cyber intrusions in various critical sectors and warned that Americans should be prepared for unexpected attacks.

The bipartisan select committee, formed to address growing threats posed by China, continues to call for measures against Chinese-owned apps like TikTok, citing national security concerns.

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