Christopher A. Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned on Wednesday that China was ramping up an extensive hacking operation geared at taking down the United States’ power grid, oil pipelines and water systems in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.
Mr. Wray, appearing before a House subcommittee on China, offered an alarming assessment of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts. Its intent is to sow confusion, sap the United States’ will to fight and hamper the American military from deploying resources if the dispute over Taiwan, a major flashpoint between the two superpowers, escalates into a war, he added.
Before his testimony, F.B.I. and Justice Department officials revealed that last month, they had obtained a court order that authorized them to gain access to servers infiltrated by Volt Typhoon, a Beijing-directed hacking network that has targeted a range of critical infrastructure systems, often by infiltrating small businesses, contractors or local government networks.
“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,” said Mr. Wray, who pressed the committee to increase funding for the bureau.
“Low blows against civilians are part of China’s plan,” he added.
Hackers for Volt Typhoon compromised hundreds of Cisco and NetGear routers, many of them outdated models no longer supported by manufacturer updates or security patches, in an effort to embed an army of sleeper cells that would be activated in a crisis.
In May, U.S. officials warned business, local governments and foreign allies that the group was taking aim at “networks across U.S. critical infrastructure sectors” and was likely to apply the same techniques against other countries.