Chinese Hackers Targeting US Infrastructure and Hijacking Routers, Warns FBI

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On Wednesday, House legislators were notified by FBI Director Chris Wray that Chinese government-affiliated hackers are actively targeting critical infrastructure in the United States, such as transportation networks, electric grids, water treatment plants, and other key assets. Washington’s growing concern over Beijing’s growing influence on the world stage and possible threats to national security is reflected in this warning.

Just before the hearing, the Justice Department and FBI made clear how serious the situation was by revealing that they had stopped a network of compromised routers in the US that were being used by businesses and private citizens but had been taken over by Chinese state-sponsored hackers who were using them to hide their whereabouts and activities while disseminating malware.

Wray stressed in his address to the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party how little focus has been placed on a cyberthreat that affects “each and every individual in the United States.”

Wray claims that anytime China decides to launch an attack, Chinese hackers are preparing to strike American infrastructure with the goal of destroying it and harming the people and society of the United States.

Jen Easterly, the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division, voiced a similar opinion during the hearing.

These days, she said, a major event occurring on the other side of the world might endanger American lives right here in our own country. This might occur by sabotaging our water facilities, interrupting our communications, damaging our pipelines, and impeding our transportation networks. These acts are intended to incite panic and instability in society and obstruct our ability to respond appropriately.

Similar discoveries have been made by outside cybersecurity specialists, such as Microsoft, alerting us to the fact that Chinese state-sponsored hackers have been attacking critical U.S. infrastructure. These attacks could be a major threat to national security because they could be setting the stage for the disruption of vital communication links between the United States and Asia during future crises.

The activity, linked to the hacking collective Volt Typhoon, has been essentially stopped as a result of the FBI and Justice Department obtaining search and seizure orders from a federal court in Texas. The hackers got unauthorized access to their targets using numerous tactics, such as abusing cloud and internet service providers, while camouflaging their acts as routine online activity.

The United States has stepped up its efforts in recent years to counter and impede cyber operations, including those supported by foreign governments and criminal organisations. But state-sponsored hackers—especially those from China and Russia—have shown to be skilled at adapting and finding fresh ways to launch attacks.

According to Wray, China is always taking aggressive measures to undermine our economic security and stealing our ideas and intellectual property, both for private and commercial use.

Authorities in the United States have been concerned about cybercriminals utilising antiquated infrastructure for illicit purposes. Cisco and NetGear unsupported routers were easy targets for hackers who took advantage of them. In order to resolve this problem, American cyber operators eliminated the malware from these routers without notifying the owners and implemented security measures to stop infestations in the future.

Reporters were informed by an unnamed Justice Department official that officials are determined to quickly sabotage the Volt Typhoon operation. This is because the hackers are breaking into vital infrastructure networks by using the botnet to hide their identities from American internet traffic. When it suits them best, they plan to use this access to carry out nefarious activities.

China has rejected the American government’s accusations as baseless. According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, “China suffers the most from cyberattacks,” Beijing has asserted that the United States regularly and substantially meddles in internal affairs.

The former head of U.S. Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone, asserts that responsible cyber entities don’t attack civilian infrastructure.

“The existence of undesired entities in our water and power systems perplexes Nakasone. He feels as though they don’t belong there and finds it difficult to comprehend why they are there.

In his testimony before the same committee on Tuesday, Leon, who served as the Obama administration’s defence secretary and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated that he thought Chinese agents had “inserted malicious software into our computer networks.” He also issued a warning against the Chinese government using AI to spread misleading information.

The panel was established in 2023 with the goal of tackling the issues presented by China, and it is chaired by Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The committee held a high-profile hearing as its first item of business, and the Chinese government has taken note of its efforts. China has responded by urging the committee members to put aside their prejudices and antiquated conceptions of the Cold War.

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