Chinese-affiliated hacking groups infiltrated critical American infrastructure, ... trends now
Chinese hackers are positioning themselves inside critical US infrastructure by targeting careless office workers in a bid to cause 'societal chaos' from within should war break out.
Beijing's military have burrowed into more than 20 major suppliers in the last year alone including a water utility in Hawaii, a major West Coast port and at least one oil and gas pipeline, analysts have revealed.
And they have bypassed elaborate cyber security systems by intercepting passwords and log-ins unguarded by junior employees, leaving China 'sitting on a stockpile of strategic' vulnerabilities.
Codenamed Volt Typhoon, the project has coincided with growing tension over Taiwan and could unplug US efforts to protect its interests in the South China Sea.
'It is very clear that Chinese attempts to compromise critical infrastructure are in part to pre-position themselves to be able to disrupt or destroy that critical infrastructure in the event of a conflict,' said Brandon Wales of the DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
President Joe Biden avoided the subject during talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping at he Apec summit in San Francisco last month
Analysts believe that China's military has changed its strategy from intelligence-gathering to infiltration in a bid to sew chaos should war break out
China's focus on Guam is of particular concern, as the US territory is a key military base in the Pacific, and would be a major staging ground for any American response in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea
'Either to prevent the United States from being able to project power into Asia or to cause societal chaos inside the United States — to affect our decision-making around a crisis.
'That is a significant change from Chinese cyber activity from seven to 10 years ago that was focused primarily on political and economic espionage.'
The hackers often cover their traces by using unsuspicious devices such as home or office routers in a bid to steal employee credentials, officials told the Washington Post.
Once inside the systems they can pose as legitimate users, in a technique known as 'living off the land'.
'You're trying to build tunnels into your enemies' infrastructure that you can later use to attack,' said China expert Joe McReynolds at the Jamestown Foundation.
'Until then you lie in wait, carry out reconnaissance, figure out if you can move into industrial control systems or more critical companies or targets upstream. And one day, if you get the order from on high, you switch from reconnaissance to attack.'
The Director of National Intelligence warned in February that China is already 'almost certainly capable' of launching cyberattacks to disable oil and gas pipelines and rail systems.
'If Beijing feared that a major conflict with the United States were imminent, it almost certainly would consider undertaking aggressive cyber operations against U.S. homeland critical infrastructure and military assets worldwide,' the annual assessment reported.
The Director of National Intelligence warned in February that China is already 'almost certainly capable' of launching cyberattacks to disable oil and gas pipelines and rail systems
Chinese military planners intend 'network warfare' targeting infrastructure to play a crucial role in any amphibious invasion of Taiwan
Hiding among authorized users can leave the hackers almost invisible to