China's Secret War Preps Inside US Utilities
PLA cyber agents aim to sow panic and chaos in the event of military hostilities
You may have missed—as I did initially in my daily doom-scrolling—an unnerving story this week from the cyberwar front. Chinese military hackers, The Washington Post reported, have been quietly infiltrating American infrastructure—a water utility in Hawaii, a big port on the West Coast, and at least one oil and gas pipeline—with the idea of lying in wait until orders come from Beijing to create chaos and panic here in the event hostilities break out between the U.S. and China. The hackers have slithered into similar infrastructure of US allies abroad, the paper said.
The offensive amounts to a shift from espionage to sabotage, a top DHS official responsible for cyber security told the Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Joseph Menn, coauthors of the startling story. Not that China has throttled back one whit on its espionage campaign here, Nakashima told me on this week’s SpyTalk podcast.
“China is still engaging in massive espionage, cyber espionage, and commercial espionage,” said Nakashina, a prize winning national security and intelligence reporter at the Post for decades. “And…their equivalent of the CIA, the MSS, is conducting broad espionage efforts against the U.S. and other countries.
“But…what's sort of new, or what's the U.S. government has come to assess only within the last year or so,” she added, “is that the PLA, the People's Liberation Army, the military side of the house, those hackers have been intruding into critical infrastructure targets and entities not for military intelligence purposes, but to be able to, if they ever should need to or want to, potentially disrupt these systems to create an atmosphere of fear, doubt, panic.”
It’s a frightening scenario. Think Leave the World Behind, the apocalyptic thriller now playing on Netflix.
To learn more about the Chinese op—and faltering federal efforts to get U.S. utilities, banks and other critical infrastructure to tighten up their defenses—do tune in to the SpyTalk podcast on Apple, or wherever you like to listen.
We like to think we’re part of the solution. Let us know.
SpyTalk is now read in 183 countries and all 50 states—but only because of the generous support of paying subscribers. Won’t you sign up for a free trial?