FBI Director Christopher Wray has a stark new warning for Americans: Critical U.S. infrastructure is at risk from Chinese cyber hacking.
It was just one year ago that the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon after it had gathered intelligence as it passed over U.S. military bases and the entire United States.
Director Wray told Congress a major China cyberattack would prove much more damaging.
“China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities if and when China decides the time has come to strike,” he warned.
Wray’s testimony came on the same day U.S. officials announced they had blocked a sophisticated Chinese cyber-spy operation called Vol Typhoon.
The cyber team reportedly hijacked information from hundreds of small U.S. businesses.
Jen Easterly, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, explained what a perfectly executed infrastructure hack would mean for the average American.
“Telecommunications going down so people can’t use their cell phones. People start getting sick from polluted water. Trains get derailed. Air traffic control systems, port control systems are malfunctioning,” Easterly warned. “This is truly an everything everywhere, all at once scenario.”
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Wray believes it is the defining threat of our generation. “Let’s be clear, cyberthreats to our critical infrastructure represent real-world threats to our physical safety,” he said.
Cyber security experts say China’s hackers are constantly testing the security of U.S. computer servers, often breaking through firewalls to steal valuable corporate and personal information.
Former White House Cyber-response Chief Jeff Greene contends China’s goal is to create chaos.
“The goal of these intrusions is largely to create that societal panic and we need to make sure that we are prepared not to panic. We take the power away from our adversaries when we can take a punch, roll with it, and move forward,” explained Greene.
Greene, now Senior Director for Cybersecurity Programs at The Aspen Institute, said fundamental flaws in critical infrastructure devices are allowing the intrusions to happen.
That is why more congressional funding to update and safeguard antiquated U.S. computer networks is requested.
“So you as an individual can’t do a lot to protect the critical infrastructure, but you can help protect and prepare yourself,” said Greene.
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