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Chinese hackers ready to target U.S. critical infrastructure, warns FBI chief

Chinese hackers ready to target U.S. critical infrastructure, warns FBI chief FBI Director Christopher Wray (Getty Images)

Chinese government hackers are preparing attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, including oil, gas pipelines, and transport systems, as FBI Director Christopher Wray is going to say Wednesday to the House of Representatives, according to CNN and Reuters.

According to a copy of his remarks leaked to the media, China's hackers are getting ready to cause "real-world harm" to Americans.

“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 will say.

According to Wray, the targets include the electrical grid, oil and gas pipelines, water treatment plants, and transportation systems, all these crucial for everyday life. The FBI and Justice Department have been working to prevent harmful actions by the Chinese government and hackers. Despite efforts to update vulnerable software, the hackers are deeply rooted in U.S. infrastructure.

The warning is the most direct one Wray has given publicly so far about the threat Chinese hackers pose to critical infrastructure within the country. Other top U.S. officials will also testify about Chinese cyber activities.

The Justice Department and FBI's actions are part of a broader government attempt to counter ongoing Chinese hacking efforts. U.S. officials are concerned that these activities could interfere with a potential U.S. military response if China invades Taiwan. The hackers are believed to be using access to certain devices to infiltrate sensitive critical infrastructure like ports and transportation networks.

The Chinese government has denied allegations of hacking.

Chinese hackers

Wray has already publicly acknowledged that China has the largest network of cyber spies in the world.

"China already has a bigger hacking program than every other major nation combined," Wray said. "If each one of the FBI's cyber agents and intelligence analysts focused on China exclusively, Chinese hackers would still outnumber our cyber personnel by at least 50 to 1".

For example, the hacking group Storm-0558 is focused on espionage, such as gaining access to email systems for intelligence-gathering purposes.

Now the U.S. federal agencies, responsible for Defense, Transportation, Treasury, and Health and Human Services, are also working to prevent risks linked to AI technology. They have assessed the risks associated with using AI in critical national infrastructure, such as the electric grid. Federal agencies have also boosted the hiring of data scientists and AI experts.