US cyber head gives stark China warning

China has been building up capabilities to carry out offensive cyber-attacks on US critical infrastructure, a leading federal cyber official has warned. 

“I hope that people are taking seriously a pretty stark warning about the potential for China to use [its] very formidable capabilities in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan straits to go after our critical infrastructure,” said Jen Easterly, director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency.

The warning follows one from the US State Department in May that China was capable of launching cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines and rail systems, after researchers discovered a Chinese hacking group had been spying on such networks.

A multi-nation alert issued at the time revealed the Chinese cyber-espionage campaign had been aimed at military and government targets in the United States.

However, the Chinese government has rejected assertions that its spies are going after Western targets, calling the warning issued by the United States and its allies a “collective disinformation campaign.”

In its most recent Annual Threat Assessment, published in February, the office of the Director of National Intelligence in the US said that “China almost certainly is capable of launching cyber-attacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines, and rail systems.”