Chinese hacking groups maintained access to U.S. infrastructure systems for “at least five years” before they were discovered recently, according to a new report from U.S. security groups.
The Joint Cybersecurity Advisery issued its findings on Wednesday, saying that Chinese hackers had access but remained dormant inside U.S. systems. The hackers have infiltrated “Communications, Energy, Transportation Systems, and Waste and Wastewater Systems Sectors — in the continental and non-continental United States and its territories.”
The advisory is made up of U.S. law enforcement groups as well as security groups from the allied nations of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K.
The report states that the cyber operation’s goal was not intelligence gathering, but instead to gain access to and control critical infrastructure across the U.S. The report adds that the hackers could wreak havoc on U.S. systems in the event of a major conflict between the U.S. and China.
The hackers’ “choice of targets and pattern of behavior is not consistent with traditional cyber espionage or intelligence gathering operations,” the report reads. “The U.S. authoring agencies are concerned about the potential for these actors to use their network access for disruptive effects in the event of potential geopolitical tensions and/or military conflicts.”
The report echoes concerns raised by FBI Director Christopher Wray in a congressional hearing last week.
Wray and other government officials testified in front of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party at a hearing titled “The Chinese Communist Party Cyber Threat to the American Homeland and National Security.”
“There has been far too little public focus on the fact that PRC [People’s Republic of China] hackers are targeting our critical infrastructure — our water treatment plants, our electrical grid, our oil and natural gas pipelines, our transportation systems. And the risk that poses to every American requires our attention now,” Wray told lawmakers.
“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,” Wray said.
Wray has repeatedly called on lawmakers to focus more attention on China’s cyber threat. He attempted to paint the picture for lawmakers during Congressional testimony last year as well.
“To give you a sense of what we’re up against, if each one of the FBI’s cyber agents and intel analysts focused exclusively on the China threat — on nothing but China — Chinese hackers would still outnumber FBI cyber personnel by at least 50 to 1,” Wray testified in April 2023.
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report