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FBI boss: Chinese hackers determined to ‘wreak havoc’ on US infrastructure

FBI director Christopher Wray (Susan Walsh/AP)
FBI director Christopher Wray (Susan Walsh/AP)

Chinese government hackers are busily targeting water treatment plants, the electrical grid, transportation systems and other critical infrastructure inside the United States, FBI director Chris Wray will tell House politicians on Wednesday in a fresh warning from Washington about Beijing’s global ambitions.

Mr Wray will say there has been “far too little public focus” on a cyber threat that affects “every American”, according to a copy of prepared remarks he will give 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,” Mr Wray will say.

The comments align with assessments from outside cybersecurity firms including Microsoft, which said in May that state-backed Chinese hackers have been targeting US critical infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the US and Asia during future crises.

The following month, Mandiant said suspected state-backed Chinese hackers had used a security hole in a popular email security appliance to break into the networks of hundreds of public and private sector organisations globally.

Mr Wray and other senior US officials have for years been sounding the alarm not only about the Chinese government’s hacking prowess but about Beijing’s determination to steal scientific and industrial research from American businesses.

China has called those accusations groundless even as multiple criminal indictments have laid out detailed evidence.

“Today, and literally every day, they’re actively attacking our economic security, engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation, and our personal and corporate data,” Mr Wray said.

The committee was established last year with a mandate of countering China, kicking off with a primetime hearing.

The Chinese government has lashed out at the committee, demanding that its members “discard their ideological bias and zero-sum Cold War mentality”.