Chinese Government-Backed Hackers Infiltrated U.S. Pipeline Companies, FBI Says

Written by Tonya Riley

Chinese state-sponsored cybercriminals successfully hacked the control systems of several US oil and gas pipelines between December 2011 and 2013, an alert from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI revealed on Wednesday.

The hackers stole information that would have given them access to control networks and provided them “sufficient access to allow them to remotely perform unauthorized operations on the pipeline with physical consequences,” the alert said. . The campaign has compromised at least 13 companies. Eight of the 23 targets had an unknown level of intrusion. The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency and the FBI provided assistance to victims at the time.

“The CISA and the FBI assess that these actors specifically targeted the US pipeline infrastructure with the aim of endangering the US pipeline infrastructure,” said the alert. “In addition, the CISA and the FBI believe that this activity was ultimately intended to help China develop cyberattack capabilities against US pipelines to physically damage pipelines or disrupt pipeline operations.”

The CISA and the FBI are urging owners and operators of energy and other critical infrastructure to be on guard. The agencies issued five alerts and advisories on Tuesday advising the industry on potential risks.

U.S. pipelines have traditionally been subject to looser regulation than the rest of the energy industry, although this has started to change since hackers forced fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline to shut down for nearly a week in May. . The TSA of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released several new requirements for operators to protect the industry from ransomware attacks.

The new assignments represent the latest US public scrutiny of hacking operations in China. The United States and several allies have accused China of hiring hackers who exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server earlier this year, which led to ransomware attacks around the world against tens of thousands of people. victims.

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