The Chinese military is increasing its capabilities to hack into and disrupt key infrastructure across the United States, such as power, water, communications, and transportation systems, the Washington Post has reported, citing government officials and security experts.
The hackings appear to be part of a larger military campaign called “Volt Typhoon,” which aims to attack and disrupt American logistics in the event of a war in the Indo-Pacific over an invasion of Taiwan by China.
Over the past year, Chinese military hackers have “have burrowed into the computer systems of about two dozen critical entities,” which are “part of a broader effort to develop ways to sow panic and chaos or snarl logistics in the event of a U.S.-China conflict in the Pacific,” sources told WaPo.
Impacted infrastructure includes a water utility in Hawaii, a major West Coast port and at least one oil and gas pipeline, all of which were unnamed. Likewise, the Texas power grid, which operates independently from the rest of the country, also fell victim to an attempted hacking.
Speaking to WaPo, Brandon Wales, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that “It is very clear that Chinese attempts to compromise critical infrastructure are in part to pre-position themselves to be able to disrupt or destroy that critical infrastructure in the event of a conflict, to either prevent the United States from being able to project power into Asia or to cause societal chaos inside the United States — to affect our decision-making around a crisis.”
“That is a significant change from Chinese cyber activity from seven to 10 years ago that was focused primarily on political and economic espionage,” he added.
“None of the intrusions affected industrial control systems that operate pumps, pistons or any critical function, or caused a disruption,” WaPo reported, however, the attention of these attacks appear to be focused on Hawaii, home of the US Pacific Fleet and a major logistics hub for military operations in the region. In May, Microsoft reported that Volt Typhoon activities were targeting entities in Guam, another strategic American naval location.