Cyber Attacks Aim to ‘Induce Panic’ Across America

( – The director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told Congress that China has a plan to “panic” U.S. citizens through cyber warfare.

Jen Easterly to the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that it is “Chinese military doctrine” to try to foment anxiety and unrest in their enemies. And, she said, the communist country is carrying it out through electronic attacks such as ransomware extortion and digital hits on critical infrastructure. Ransomware attacks consist of an enemy party gaining access to an organization’s internal computer systems and locking them out of necessary data unless they pay the hackers a ransom. Such attacks have hit businesses and more critical entities such as hospitals.

She said a prime example of such incursions was the ransomware extortion hit on the Colonial Pipeline that occurred in late spring, 2021. That action made it impossible to deliver gasoline to the eastern part of the U.S. for days. Easterly said U.S. citizens could not drive to work, drop their kids off at school, or even get to emergency medical facilities. “It caused a bit of a panic,” she said.

But what if the operations were scaled up, Easterly asked. She asked Congress to imagine not just one, but multiple pipelines being hit with cyber attacks at the same time. And it’s not just oil and gas pipes that might be affected, but cell phone systems, internet service, and water treatment plants. This could lead to American trains becoming derailed, a nightmare for air traffic control that could shut down air travel, and an “everything, everywhere, all at once scenario,” the director said.

Three additional witnesses gave testimony at the hearing on China’s cyber threats to American national security. They included FBI Director Christopher Wray; General Paul Nakasone, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command; and the head of the Office of the National Cyber Director, Harry Coker, Jr.

FBI Director Wray said the U.S. is woefully outmatched in this game by its Chinese counterparts, who have at least 50 agents working to cripple U.S. electronic infrastructure for every U.S. agent trying to fight off such attacks.

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