Bloomberg’s Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson report U.S. officials believe Chinese hackers now already know the steps needed to blow up a U.S. pipeline or shut down an American power plant.
“They’re practicing,” retired Army General Keith Alexander told lawmakers in a classified briefing in 2012, an unnamed U.S. official told the reporters.
Bloomberg says the U.S. discovered dozens of successful remote infiltrations of natural gas pipelines and electric utilities by People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398, the unit the Justice Department believes is carrying out the attacks, between 2012 and 2013:
Operatives vacuumed up caches of emails, engineering PDFs and other documents, but it was their focus on supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems in industrial computers that most concerned U.S. officials, according to people familiar with the incidents. Attackers could use SCADA systems to manipulate valves to build up pressure and burst pipes or shut down a power plant.
In many cases, by the time outside forces have breached a computer system, “they have already done everything they need to attack you,” said Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency. “In addition to doing reconnaissance, and maybe being accepted intelligence practice, they have got a gun at your head.”
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