A new report by the US and allied intelligence agencies shed light on a five-year long cyber campaign being waged by Chinese hackers. For half a decade, Chinese hackers have had access to vulnerable networks across a wide range of US infrastructure.
The hackers lingered in the background of US networks, probing their defenses, testing their control and data exfiltration abilities, and lurking in sensitive areas. The goal is to silently creep up on America and put themselves in a position to launch debilitating cyber attacks that affect entire swathes of the country.
US intelligence chiefs addressed the problem with Congress last week, making sure the potential for dangerous activity is well-known by US officials.
This roughly 50-page report details the history of the various entities establishing their positions and probing for defenses starting years before we previously believed they started. For years, hackers subtly maneuvered themselves into the networks of our electric and water companies.
In one instance, the assailants breached the IT systems of a water facility and gained a sizable amount of key data on water treatment plants and water wells.
If they succeeded, they’d have full control over the flow of water and power in the majority of the country. If they chose to exploit that power, it would be at a severe cost to the US and cause “significant infrastructure failures.”
The effects would be felt by bordering countries as well. The Canadian cybersecurity agency stated that while it wouldn’t be as devastating to Canada as the US, it would still come at a heavy cost for the country.
The report confirmed that the attackers infiltrated energy, water, and transportation networks across the country. The Chinese Embassy replied to the report, rejecting the accusations. At the same time, they accused the US of launching their own cyber attacks.