On Sunday, the New York Times and other media outlets reported that the Biden White House is looking for malware believed to originate from Chinese attackers in critical infrastructure systems that support United States military bases globally.
According to reports, US officials and industry experts believe the malware found by tech companies in American networks affecting Guam and other strategic sites may be just one example of a greater Chinese operation to plant malicious code dating back at least a year.
Congressional officials have described the malware as a “ticking time bomb” Beijing could activate in the event of a conflict with America or a potential invasion of Taiwan, disrupting US military operations and crippling its response.
Officials say the affected networks control power grids, water supply, and communications systems that support military operations while connecting to civilian systems. Following the cyberattack in Guam last year, Microsoft and other tech companies attributed it to the CCP-backed hacking group Volt Typhoon, which deploys a strain of malware that can remain hidden within systems for years.
The Biden White House has addressed the matter with military, intelligence, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in meetings to hash out the problem and map out a plan of action.
“The Biden administration is working relentlessly to defend the US from any disruptions to our critical infrastructure, including by coordinating interagency efforts to protect water systems, pipelines, rail and aviation systems, among others,” said Adam R. Hodge, the Acting Spokesman for the National Security Council, told The New York Times.
Officials say the administration has been puzzled by the cyber campaign because it does not fit into the familiar pattern of espionage-related hacking operations Washington and Beijing have conducted against each other.
Speaking to The New York Times, Haoming Ouyang, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, told The Times that they have “always firmly opposed and cracked down on all forms of cyber attacking in accordance with the law.”