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FBI director warns Chinese hackers aim to ‘wreak havoc’ on US critical infrastructure

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FBI Director Christopher Wray warned about the growing threat of Chinese cyberattacks against U.S. electrical grids and other infrastructure during an appearance Wednesday morning before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

“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,” Wray was to ell the panel, according to excerpts of his prepared testimony released by the FBI.

Wray also argued that “there has been far too little public focus” that Chinese hackers are targeting critical infrastructure in the U.S. such as water treatment plans, the electrical grids, oil and natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems, according to the prepared remarks.

FBI Director Chris Wray Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee
FBI director Christopher Wray during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on July 12, 2023.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

“And the risk that poses to every American requires our attention — now,” the excerpts of his prepared testimony say.

Wray emphasized in the remarks that the “cyber onslaught” by Chinese hackers “goes way beyond prepositioning for future conflict,” saying that every day the hackers are “actively attacking” U.S. economic security, engaging in “wholesale theft of our innovation, and our personal and corporate data.”

“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,” the excerpts said.

Wray’s remarks add to a series of stark warnings he has issued about the Chinese government’s hacking capabilities. In an interview with NBC News in 2022, Wray said he was shocked to learn the scale of Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology when he became FBI director in 2017, and that the FBI had launched an average of two counterintelligence investigations a day to counter those threats.

China-linked hackers last year breached the email accounts of the State and Commerce departments as well as the U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said at the time that the targeted intelligence-gathering campaign lasted around a month.

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