Cyber-espionage: The US State Department warned on Thursday that China could hack critical infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines and rail systems in the US. The warning came after researchers discovered a Chinese hacking group had been spying on such networks.
On Wednesday a multi-nation alert revealed the China had launched a cyber-espionage campaign targeting military and government targets in the United States.
China says it’s collective disinformation campaign
However, China rejected the charge that its spies are going after Western targets. It called the warning issued by the United States and its allies a “collective disinformation campaign.”
US officials said they were still in the process of figuring out the threat.
“We’ve had at least one location that we didn’t know about since the hunt guide was released come forward with data and information,” Rob Joyce, the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) cybersecurity director, told reporters. The agency disclosed technical details earlier to help critical service providers detect the spying.
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) separately said it was working to understand “the breadth of potential intrusions and associated impacts.”
That would help it “provide assistance where needed, and more effectively understand the tactics undertaken by this adversary,” CISA’s executive assistant director, Eric Goldstein, told Reuters.
Covert spy operations
Part of the challenge in defending against this espionage work is that it’s more covert than regular spy operations, according to researchers and officials.
“In these cases the adversary is often using legitimate credentials and legitimate network administration tools to gain access to execute their objectives on a target network,” Goldstein said. “Many traditional methods of detection, such as antivirus, will not find these intrusions.”
Microsoft analysts identified the Chinese campaign dubbed as Volt Typhoon. They said it “could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises” – a nod to escalating US-China tensions over Taiwan and other issues.
“The US intelligence community assesses that China almost certainly is capable of launching cyberattacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines and rail systems,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a press briefing.
“It’s vital for government and network defenders in the public to stay vigilant.”
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