Jane Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, testifies before the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, in the Rayburn House office building in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2022.

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China’s cyber espionage and sabotage capabilities are a “defining threat of the era,” the US chief cybersecurity official said, warning that in a situation of open war, “aggressive cyber operations” would threaten US transportation infrastructure to “cause societal panic.”

“I think this is the real threat that we need to prepare for,” said Gene Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Monday appearance At the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., Easterly was responding to a question about recently revealed Chinese infiltration of US military and private sector infrastructure.

The attacking group was called “Volt Typhoon”. Microsoft He was publicly linked to the Chinese government’s cyberattack capabilities. Easterly warned that in the event of an open conflict between the United States and China, Americans should expect that similar hacking groups will target pipelines and railroads. “It would be very, very difficult for us to prevent disruptions,” Easterly said.

“We, as the American people, need to understand not only cyber resilience but also the imperative of operational resilience and the importance of societal resilience,” said the CISA director.

The explicit warning comes at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions. Corporate executives have much less insight into potential Chinese partners or potential customers than they did a year ago. Warding off cyber threats from China and Asia has become a top priority for the US government, which has begun to describe in clearer and tougher terms the links between the Chinese government and countless hacking groups.

Chinese infiltration and cyber espionage has been a constant concern for American companies. Intellectual property theft has been used by Chinese companies to reach parity with American competitors.

But the clear and present danger emphasized by Easterly indicates that the US government has become increasingly willing to highlight risks beyond espionage. Disruption of critical pipelines, communications infrastructure, or transportation services could cripple the US economy in a conflict situation.

For example, the colonial pipeline’s cyber infiltration has disrupted airlines and caused gas shortages across the East Coast. This attack by Russian hackers initially cost the company $5 million.

“I think this is the most important issue for anyone managing or operating critical infrastructure that we need to prepare for disruptive attacks,” Easterly said. “Now, I hope that doesn’t happen.”


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