FBI dismantles Chinese hacking group “Volt Typhoon”

The FBI successfully dismantled the Chinese state-sponsored hacking group “Volt Typhoon,” which was presumably targeting critical U.S. infrastructure.

The FBI has successfully thwarted the hacking endeavours of a Chinese state-sponsored group, “Volt Typhoon,” which had been targeting critical public infrastructure such as the power grid and pipelines, according to the agency’s director, Christopher Wray. The campaign involved dismantling the group’s operations involved hacking into hundreds of older office routers to gain access to data on U.S. assets.

Wray informed lawmakers during a U.S. congressional committee session that China was intentionally laying the groundwork to incapacitate vital U.S. infrastructure systems in the event of a hostile conflict. The “Volt Typhoon” group’s hacking activities were initially revealed in May of the previous year when Microsoft warned of their targeting of public assets and government email accounts.

The FBI’s investigation revealed that the group aimed at a wide range of the country’s critical infrastructure, encompassing water treatment systems, the power grid, transportation systems, oil and gas pipelines, and telecommunication networks. Wray disclosed that the state-sponsored Chinese group managed to install malware, gaining control over numerous old and outdated routers connected to these infrastructure assets.

Christopher Wray explained during the congressional committee session that the Volt Typhoon malware allowed China to conceal pre-operational reconnaissance and network exploitation against critical infrastructure. He emphasized the hackers’ preparedness to “wreak chaos and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities.”

Emphasizing the broader implications, he added that if China decides the time has come to strike, its focus extends beyond political or military targets. Prior warnings from cybersecurity experts in the U.S. suggested that China’s concentration on infrastructure indicates preparation for potential disruption of communications in the event of a conflict.

During the committee hearing, the chairman described these cyber activities as equal to the placing of bombs. China has consistently denied allegations of state-sponsored cyber warfare, accusing the U.S. of being a “global cyber thief.”

Wray underscored the scale of China’s cyber warfare capabilities, stating that its hacking program surpasses that of every other major nation combined. He revealed a significant resource disparity, noting that the FBI’s cyber agents are outnumbered by their Chinese counterparts by a ratio of 50 to 1.

While China has criticized the committee for its allegations, urging the discard of ideological bias, Wray’s detailed account raises concerns about the potential risks to U.S. critical infrastructure by China’s cyber resources.