China is preparing to go to war with the United States and is using its intelligence service and cyber-warfare capabilities to give them an enormous advantage in any future conflict.
War is not imminent, but given the growing competition between the two nations, war might be inevitable. And if war comes, China is determined to be ready to cripple U.S. infrastructure so severely that it would be difficult for us to overcome it.
“China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike,” FBI Christopher Wray told the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.
Jen Easterly, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, echoed that sentiment.
“This is a world where a major crisis halfway across the planet could well endanger the lives of Americans here at home through the disruption of our pipelines, the severing of our telecommunications, the pollution of our water facilities, the crippling of our transportation modes — all to ensure that they can incite societal panic and chaos and to deter our ability” to marshal a sufficient response, she said.
Certainly, the U.S. government isn’t sitting still while China acts. But determining exactly what we’re doing to counter the threat is nearly impossible, given the layers of security that hide much of what U.S. Cyber Command does.
The FBI recently disrupted a Chinese hacker network that’s being celebrated as a significant victory.
At least a portion of that operation, attributed to a group of hackers known as Volt Typhoon, has now been disrupted after FBI and Justice Department officials obtained search-and-seizure orders in Houston federal court in December. U.S. officials did not characterize the disruption’s impact, and court documents unsealed Wednesday say the disrupted botnet was just “one form of infrastructure used by Volt Typhoon to obfuscate their activity.” The hackers have infiltrated targets through multiple avenues, including cloud and internet providers, disguising themselves as normal traffic.
The U.S. has in the past few years become more aggressive in trying to disrupt and dismantle both criminal and state-backed cyber operations, with Wray warning Wednesday that Beijing-backed hackers aim to pilfer business secrets to advance the Chinese economy and steal personal information for foreign influence campaigns.
“They are doing all those things. They all feed up ultimately into their goal to supplant the U.S. as the world’s greatest superpower,” Wray said.
The Chinese are also using commercial ventures like the EV battery plant they’re building in Michigan and the social media giant TikTok to advance their intelligence activities.
Former CIA director Leon Panetta told the committee that China will use whatever assets they have in the U.S. to gather information.
“I don’t think there’s any question that they’re going to take advantage of that situation,” Panetta remarked. “And I think we have to be very vigilant about what the hell is going on. That’s just the way they operate. They’ll establish a manufacturing unit, they’ll establish whatever they can, and then they will use that for their own intelligence purposes. They will use that for their own economic purposes.”
“They’ll use it to be able to gain the kind of advantages that are counter, frankly, to the interests of the United States,” he continued. “I think it is very important in those situations to make sure that the United States, and that our intelligence capabilities, are being used to make sure that we know what they are doing that could hurt the United States.”
You can bet the FBI will be keeping an eye on that facility. However, the bureau is constrained by U.S. law and constitutional restrictions. So why not just ban China from doing business on U.S. soil?
That EV factory and other Chinese manufacturing facilities will benefit Americans by giving them jobs and invigorating the local economies. The trade-off between security and the economy is something that has to be examined on a case-by-case basis to ensure that China is foiled in any effort to undermine our security.