The top U.S. cybersecurity official said that China’s cyber espionage and sabotage capacities are a defining threat. She warned, “In the event of open warfare, aggressive cyber operations from China would threaten critical USA transportation infrastructure to induce societal panic.”
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said, “I think this is the real threat that we need to be prepared for.”
Easterly was answering to a question about the recently disclosed Chinese infiltration of U.S. military and private sector infrastructure.
The attacking group was termed ‘Volt Typhoon’ by Microsoft and was highly linked to China’s cyber-offensive capacities.
Easterly warned, “In the event of an open conflict between the U.S. and China, Americans should expect that similar hacking groups would target pipelines and railways. It’s going to be very, very difficult for us to prevent disruptions from happening. We, as an American people, need to understand not just cyber resilience but the imperative of operational resilience and the importance of societal resilience.”
The blunt warning comes at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions. Corporate executives have far less insight into potential Chinese partners or customers than they did even a year ago. Fending off cyber threats from China and Asia has become a top priority for the U.S. government, which has begun to describe in clearer and blunter terms the links between the Chinese government and myriad hacking groups.
A disruption of critical pipelines, transportation services, or communications infrastructure could cripple the economy of the USA with conflict.
Easterly expressed, “I think that this is the most important issue for anyone who runs or operates critical infrastructure is that we need to be prepared for disruptive attacks. Now, I hope that doesn’t happen.”