By Raphael Satter
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chinese hackers are almost certain to disrupt critical U.S. infrastructure, such as pipelines and railroads, in the event of a conflict with the United States, a senior U.S. cybersecurity official said on Monday.
In comments made during an appearance at the Aspen Institute in Washington, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said Beijing was making major investments in the ability to sabotage US infrastructure.
“That’s, I think, the real threat that we need to prepare for, focus on and build our resilience for,” she told her audience.
She warned that Americans needed to be prepared for the likelihood of Beijing hackers dodging their defenses and causing damage in the physical world.
“Given the formidable nature of the threat from Chinese state actors, the size of their capabilities, the resources and the effort they are putting into it, it will be very, very difficult for us to prevent the disruptions from happening,” he added. she says.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for a reaction to the warning.
Easterly’s comments followed a question about an alleged Chinese hacking group known as Volt Typhoon, which US officials and cybersecurity firms have accused of positioning themselves to carry out destructive cyberattacks in the event of a conflict.
His comments expanded on a warning issued earlier this year by the US intelligence community, which said in its annual threat assessment that Beijing would “certainly consider undertaking aggressive cyber operations against critical infrastructure in US territory”. and military targets if Chinese decision makers believed a major fight with the United States was imminent.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Bill Berkrot)