FBI Director Issues 'Dramatic Public Warning' on China

Christopher Wray says hackers are targeting America's infrastructure
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2024 12:15 PM CST
FBI Director Issues 'Dramatic Public Warning' on China
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 5, 2023.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday issued what CNN calls a "dramatic public warning" about the cyberthreat posed by China, specifically to US infrastructure. Appearing before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, he said Chinese hackers are going after the things that keep us "safe and prosperous," including America's water treatment plants, electrical grid, oil and natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems.

  • Wray's key quote: "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. We cannot afford to sleep on this danger."

  • How the threat could come to life: USA Today reports officials fear China could insert malware into equipment tied to US infrastructure and then have the ability to cut access to power or clean water.
  • Another way to picture it: As GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher put it, "This is the cyber space equivalent of placing bombs on American bridges, water treatment facilities, and power plants. The sole purpose is to be ready to destroy American infrastructure, which would inevitably result in chaos, confusion, and potentially mass casualties. It's outrageous."
  • Progress: Wray did disclose that the FBI has stymied the China-backed hacking group Volt Typhoon, which CBS News and CNBC report had been active since mid-2021 and attacked hundreds of outdated office and home-office routers in a bid to compromise US infrastructure. Per CBS News, "US investigators obtained a court order to delete the botnet malware on infected routers and later took measures to prevent future reinfection."
  • Background: While NBC News reports Wray argued "there has been far too little public focus" on this specific threat, it notes Wray has been vocal about China for years. NBC News recalls a 2022 interview in which Wray said that after taking on the role of FBI director in 2017 he was "blown away" to learn of the extent of Chinese hacking. He said at the time that the FBI opened a new counterintelligence investigation tied to China twice daily on average.
(More Christopher Wray stories.)

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