Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Recent Chinese Cyber Intrusions Could Be Prelude to 'Cyber-Pearl Harbor': Expert

Recent Chinese Cyber Intrusions Could Be Prelude to 'Cyber-Pearl Harbor': Expert 

A recent rash of Chinese cyber attacks against the nation’s ports and utilities highlights a growing security threat facing the United States as tensions over Taiwan continue to escalate.

Two dozen “critical entities” have been infiltrated over the past year by the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), The Washington Post reported on Dec. 11. Among the critical infrastructure compromised are power and water utilities as well as communications and transportation systems.

According to U.S. officials and industry security officials cited by the report, the PLA appears to be testing its ability to disrupt key American infrastructure in the event of a U.S.–China conflict in the Pacific.

China-sourced hackers were able to gain access to a “major West Coast port, and at least one oil and gas pipeline,” according to the report. Hackers also attempted to gain control of several electric utilities, including portions of Texas's power grid. Most concerning for officials was an attack on a water utility in Hawaii, home of the Pacific Fleet, which would serve as a logistic center in the event that a conflict breaks out over Taiwan.

'Cyber-Pearl Harbor Kind of Attack'

Rex Lee, a cybersecurity adviser at My Smart Privacy, told The Epoch Times that the national security threat to the homeland posed by the Chinese military needs to be taken seriously.

“A lot of what we are seeing right now are precursor attacks that are testing the security levels of critical infrastructure,” said Mr. Lee. “And that we are starting to see more and more of these generic attacks on infrastructure should alarm everyone.

“In a sense, if we aren’t careful, we could be looking at a cyber-Pearl Harbor kind of attack.”

For years, U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that the Chinese regime is the nation’s largest threat in cyberspace. FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a 2020 speech that his agency is working around the clock to thwart Chinese aggression.

“We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours,” said Mr. Wray. “In our modern world, there is perhaps no more ominous prospect than a hostile foreign government’s ability to compromise our country’s infrastructure and devices.”

For years, ransomware attacks—when a piece of malicious software paralyzes a computer or entire system until a sum demanded by hackers is paid—have plagued U.S. public institutions and businesses.

A report from Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence revealed that 1,900 ransomware attacks occurred in four countries—the United States, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom—from July 2022 to June 2023, with the United States attracting 43 percent of all global attacks.

'Extremely Urgent'

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has identified the threat as “extremely urgent” in introducing legislation that would remove hurdles for qualified cybersecurity professionals to be able to fill posts needed to protect large institutions.
“I’m concerned that we as a nation are not prepared for the increasing cyberattacks that will be fielded by AI,” Ms. Mace said in September at a joint hearing focused on combating cyberattacks.

“We’ve got a shortage across the country of 700,000 cyber security professionals with job vacancies shooting across the public and private sector. We need all hands on deck to fill the gap.

“The government can't be turning away people with much-needed cyber skills just because they don't have a four-year degree,” added Ms. Mace.

While more cyber security officials are needed, real reform needs to come from the big tech companies who often work in tandem with China at the expense of American security, according to Mr. Lee.

“It's the operating systems that support our technology that are being compromised, and since virtually all of our infrastructure is developed in China, they know all the backdoors,” said Mr. Lee. “Anything connected to the internet is vulnerable in this tech-based hybrid warfare, and that means everyone connected to the internet is fair game.

“However, it is what is not in the news, what they [are] holding back on, and that I am most concerned about,” he added.

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