The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses an escalating threat to the American power grid system, lawmakers were told at a Tuesday House hearing.
A prospective Chinese cyberattack against the power grid could result in sensitive civilian and military sites going offline, Manny Cancel, senior vice president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, told legislators during Tuesday’s hearing hosted by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Cancel’s testimony follows rising tensions between Washington and Beijing and a February report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that stated the CCP “almost certainly would consider undertaking aggressive cyber operations against U.S. homeland critical infrastructure” in the event of a direct confrontation.
“The Chinese activities are … quite alarming,” Cancel testified.
“Chinese cyber activities are one of the most dynamic cyber threats,” he said. “China continues to demonstrate increasing sophistication, including new and adaptive techniques to gain access to networks.” (RELATED: China In Talks To Conduct Military Training In Cuba: REPORT)
The threat assessment report further states that China is “almost certainly” capable of launching such cyberattacks against key infrastructure, such as railways and pipelines transporting oil and gas.
In May and June, Chinese hackers reportedly infiltrated email accounts at the State Department and the account of Gina Raimondo, the secretary of the Department of Commerce. The national power grid system is vulnerable to CCP interference, and incidents of vandalism and other physical attacks against grid infrastructure spiked by 77% in 2022, according to the committee.
Chinese-sponsored hackers successfully breached the systems of 13 companies that own oil and gas pipelines between 2011 and 2013, extracting sensitive data relating to pipeline operations, according to a declassified report coauthored by the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
CCP-backed hackers “[continue] to demonstrate how patient they are, how stealthy they are, and, as you’ve seen during recent attacks, they’re actually quite adept at obfuscating what they’re trying to do,” Cancel testified later in the hearing.
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