In his first major television interview, the director of the FBI has warned that Chinese hackers have embarked on a widespread campaign of cyber-warfare against the US.
Speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes, James Comey had the following to say on Chinese hackers:
There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they have been hacked by the Chinese.
When asked whether Chinese hackers are particularly good at gaining access to servers belonging to US companies, Comey revealed that they’re not actually skilled when it comes to covering their tracks.
I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They’re kicking in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they’re walking out with your television set. They’re just prolific. Their strategy seems to be: We’ll just be everywhere all the time. And there’s no way they can stop us.
Comey explained that Chinese hackers aren’t looking to profit from stolen credit card details, or find personal information. Instead, they’re looking for something similar to trade secrets that can be used in China:
[They’re looking for] information that’s useful to them so they don’t have to invent [it]. They can copy or steal to learn about how a company might approach negotiations with a Chinese company, all manner of things.
60 Minutes host Scott Pelley asked Comey how much Chinese hackers are costing the US economy. He said that the cost is impossible to count, but was likely in the billions.