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Chinese hackers preparing to ‘physically wreak havoc’ on US critical infrastructure: FBI director

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Chinese hackers are developing the “ability to physically wreak havoc on our critical infrastructure at a time of its choosing,” FBI director Christopher Wray said this week.

He added that the hackers are waiting “for just the right moment to deal a devastating blow.”

The hacking campaign, known as Volt Typhoon, has embedded itself successfully in several American critical infrastructure companies that include telecommunications, energy and water, and others, he said. 

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Christopher Wray speaking

Chinese hackers are developing the “ability to physically wreak havoc on our critical infrastructure at a time of its choosing,” FBI director Christopher Wray said this week. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Its plan is to land low blows against civilian infrastructure to try to induce panic,” Wray said Thursday at the 2024 Vanderbilt Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said this week that Volt Typhoon is part of a criminal ramsonware group and is not related to the government. 

“Some in the US have been using origin-tracing of cyberattacks as a tool to hit and frame China, claiming the US to be the victim while it’s the other way round, and politicizing cybersecurity issues,” the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. said in a separate statement. 

Hacker behind the Chinese flag

The hacking campaign, known as Volt Typhoon, has embedded itself successfully in several American critical infrastructure companies that include telecommunications, energy and water, and others. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Microsoft and Google security experts have previously linked the hackers to China and Wray said the effort is connected to U.S.-Chinese tensions around Taiwan. 

Wray gave a similar warning to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in February, saying Chinese hackers are intending to “wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities.” 

Wray and other government officials were testifying in front of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party for a hearing titled “The Chinese Community Party Cyber Threat to the American Homeland and National Security.”

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“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 at the time. 

Xi Jinping waving

China has denied that the hackers are connected to the government, although Google and Microsoft experts have previously linked them.  (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Wray also said that “today, and literally every day” Chinese hackers are “actively attacking our economic security, engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation, and our personal and corporate data.” 

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“And they don’t just hit our security and economy. They target our freedoms, reaching inside our borders, across America, to silence, coerce, and threaten our citizens and residents,” Wray testified.  

Fox News’ Greg Norman and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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