Officials found suspected Chinese malware hidden in various US military systems. Its intended use is disruption rather than surveillance, a ‘disturbing’ change in intent, experts say.
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- Suspected Chinese malware has been identified in several US military systems.
- Unlike other surveillance malware from China, this malware seems intended to disrupt operations.
- The malware could also have the ability to disrupt normal civilian life and businesses.
US officials found suspected Chinese malware across several military systems — and unlike previous attacks, experts say the intent is more likely to disrupt rather than to surveil, The New York Times reports.
The attacks first came into the public eye in May after Microsoft identified malicious code in telecommunications software in Guam, where the US houses the Andersen Air Force Base.
US officials told the Times that investigations into Chinese malware had been underway for several months and that the malicious code had infiltrated US military systems across the country and abroad. Previous cyberattacks typically aimed to surveil US operations, experts told the Times.
“China is steadfast and determined to penetrate our governments, our companies, our critical infrastructure,” the deputy director of the National Security Agency, George Barnes, said at the Intelligence and National Security Summit earlier this month.
Now, experts say this new wave of malicious code has the ability to disrupt US military and civilian operations.
Last month, Rob Joyce, the director of cybersecurity at the NSA, called the nature of this malware “really disturbing.” The Times reported that it could allow China to cut off power, water, and communications to military bases, and it could also affect personal homes and businesses across the country.
The experts who spoke with the Times also said it was not clear whether the Chinese government knew about the malware or how well the software would actually work.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue of Chinese hacking while meeting with Chinese diplomats earlier in July, CNN reported.
“We have consistently made clear that any action that targets US government, US companies, American citizens, is a deep concern to us and that we will take appropriate action to hold those responsible accountable and the secretary made that clear again,” a senior State Department official told CNN.
In response to questions posed by the Times to the White House about the issue, the National Security Council’s spokesman, Adam Hodge, said: “The Biden administration is working relentlessly to defend the United States from any disruptions to our critical infrastructure, including by coordinating interagency efforts to protect water systems, pipelines, rail and aviation systems, among others.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.