Last Wednesday, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) told Congress that Chinese cyberattacks on American businesses and infrastructure systems are designed to “induce societal panic.” Her statement was followed by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said Chinese cyberattack capabilities are 50 times stronger than America’s own.
“It is Chinese military doctrine to attempt to induce societal panic in their adversary,” Director Jen Easterly said before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “And arguably, the Chinese government got a little bit of a taste of this in the aftermath of the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May of 2021 that shut down gas to the Eastern seaboard for several days … [Americans] couldn’t get to work. They couldn’t take their kids to school, get folks to the hospital. It caused a bit of panic.”
“Now imagine that on a massive scale. Imagine not one pipeline, but many pipelines disrupted and telecommunications going down so people can’t use their cell phone. People start getting sick from polluted water. Trains get derailed. Air traffic control system, port control systems are malfunctioning. … This is truly an everything, everywhere all at once scenario.”
Easterly was joined by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said he shares her concerns and advocated for more Congressional and federal attention on cyberattacks from China. He noted that the FBI had just recently thwarted a Chinese malware effort directed at American small businesses.
“Just this morning, we [the FBI] announced an operation where we and our partners identified hundreds of routers that had been taken over by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] state-sponsored hacking group known as Volt Typhoon. The Volt Typhoon malware enabled China to hide, among other things, pre-operational reconnaissance and network exploitation against critical infrastructure like our communications, energy, transportation and water sectors.”
He added that Volt Typhoon attempted to “find and prepare to destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous” and that such attacks constitute “real-world threats to our physical safety.” According to Wray, China has a cyber force much larger and with more funding than the United States. If America were to dedicate all its cyber personnel to China, it would still be overpowered by a 50-to-1 ratio, “at least.”
“To quantify what we’re up against, the PRC has a bigger hacking program than that of every major nation combined. In fact, if you took every one of the FBI’s cyber agents and intelligence analysts and focused them exclusively heavily on the China threat, China’s hackers would still outnumber FBI cyber personnel by at least 50-to-1,” he said.
Wray advocated for a joint effort between the American government and the private sector to fend off Chinese attacks.
The earliest version of CISA was formed in 2007 as a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called the National Protection and Programs Directorate. It was established as a standalone agency in 2018 with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act signed by President Donald Trump.
Shane Devine is a writer covering politics, economics, and culture for Valuetainment. Follow Shane on X (Twitter).