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Chinese hackers infiltrated US networks for up to 5 years, cyber officials reveal

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Chinese hackers have made headlines by shattering the walls of U.S. networks and spending up to five years concealing their activities within the country. According to law enforcement and international agencies, the cyber operation was part of a systematic targeting of U.S. critical infrastructure. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all came together and released an alert concerning the cyber breaches, warning that the goal of these Chinese hackers was to prepare for destructive or disruptive cyber-attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure in the event of a major crisis or conflict with the United States.

Reportedly, these hackers, given the name “Volt Typhoon” by U.S. authorities, have been determined to be state-sponsored cyber actors from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Their yearslong operation was designed to position China for the potential to attack U.S. critical infrastructure using malware, and they have compromised entities in vital areas such as communications, energy, transportation, and water systems in the U.S. and its territories. The depth and reach of these incursions are distressing, considering the extent of the vital systems that have been infiltrated.

The full scope of the desired impact of these cyber-attacks has struck fear in the hearts of U.S. officials. These Chinese cyber actors have allegedly set their sights on launching destructive cyber-attacks that would jeopardize the safety of Americans and impede military readiness in the event of a major crisis or conflict with the United States. The potential ramifications of such attacks are far-reaching, affecting not only the country’s security but also its way of life. Moreover, the agencies have expressed concern about the possibility of these actors using their network access for disruptive effects in the event of potential geopolitical tensions or military conflicts, signifying the gravity of the situation.

In light of these alarming revelations, the FBI used a court order to disrupt the activities of the Volt Typhoon actors and prevent them from carrying out their intended hacking operations. It’s a small victory in a larger battle, and U.S. officials have been undeniably diligent in taking the necessary steps to combat these highly invasive and potentially catastrophic cyber interferences.

An important emphasis was placed on the potential for China to use the Volt Typhoon malware to carry out pre-operational reconnaissance and network exploitation in preparation for targeting critical infrastructure. The recent Colonial Pipeline hack in 2021, which caused widespread panic and fuel shortages, was cited as an example of what could happen on a much larger scale if China’s ambitions were to materialize. This sentiment was echoed by CISA Director Jenn Easterly, who warned that the U.S. has only scratched the surface of what these cyber actors are capable of.

The revelation of the Volt Typhoon cyber operation has incited a sense of urgency within the U.S. government to mitigate the impacts and prevent any further infiltration. The complexity and severity of these hacks have undoubtedly raised the stakes and necessitated a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Moving forward, the U.S. will need to continue to fortify its defenses and implement measures to safeguard the critical infrastructure that is essential to the nation’s security and prosperity.

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