State Department warns China could hack US 'critical infrastructure'
'The US intel community assesses that China almost certainly is capable of launching cyberattacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the US, including against oil and gas pipelines and rail systems,' said State Dept spokesperson Matthew Miller
After the discovery that a Chinese hacker cell had been eavesdropping on important American infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines and rail systems, the US State Department issued a warning that China is capable of launching cyberattacks against such targets.
Earlier this week, a multination alert revealed a Chinese cyberespionage campaign had been aimed at military and government targets in the US.
“The US intelligence community assesses that China almost certainly is capable of launching cyberattacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines and rail systems,” a Reuters report quoted State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller as saying at a press briefing on Thursday.
“It’s vital for government and network defenders in the public to stay vigilant,” he added.
The espionage group – dubbed “Volt Typhoon” by Microsoft – was the subject of an alert issued by cybersecurity and intelligence agencies in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – known as the “Five Eyes” – on Wednesday.
Microsoft researchers said Volt Typhoon was developing capabilities “that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises” – a nod to the escalating tensions between China and the US over Taiwan and other issues.
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) separately said it was working to understand “the breadth of potential intrusions and associated impacts”.
That would help the agency “provide assistance where needed, and more effectively understand the tactics undertaken by this adversary,” CISA’s executive assistant director, Eric Goldstein, told the Reuters news agency.
China dismisses cyberespionage charge
The Chinese government has rejected assertions that its spies are going after Western targets, calling the joint warning issued by the United States and its allies a “collective disinformation campaign”.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that the Five Eyes alerts were intended to promote their intelligence alliance and that it was Washington that was guilty of hacking.
“This is an extremely unprofessional report with a missing chain of evidence. This is just scissors-and-paste work,” Al Jazeera report quoted Mao as saying.
“The United States is the empire of hacking,” she said.
With inputs from agencies
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