Cyber hackers working for the Chinese government are preparing to “wreak havoc” on the US, FBI director Christopher Wray is warning.
Critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants, the electrical grid, and transportation systems are being targeted to cause “real-world harm” to American citizens, he will tell US politicians on Wednesday.
Mr Wray will speak to the House Select Committee On The Chinese Communist Party – and is also expected to say there has been “far too little public focus” on a cyber threat which affects “every American”.
According to a copy of prepared remarks, he will say: “China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike.
“Today, and literally every day, they’re actively attacking our economic security, engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation, and our personal and corporate data.”
The comments follow previous assessments from private cybersecurity firms, which have warned of the ongoing threat posed by China.
Last year, Microsoft said state-backed Chinese hackers had been targeting American infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the US and Asia during future crises.
American firm Mandiant accused Chinese hackers of using a security hole in a popular email appliance to break into the networks of hundreds of public and private sector organisations globally.
Mr Wray is among a number of senior US officials to continue warning of the Chinese government’s hacking prowess alongside Beijing’s determination to steal scientific and industrial research from American businesses.
China has called the accusations groundless, despite multiple criminal indictments detailing evidence.
The committee was established with a mandate of countering China, including a focus on security and economic implications.
Last year, a report accused a Chinese spy of using LinkedIn to target thousands of British officials as part of an attempt to mine secrets.
In 2022, Mr Wray joined the head of MI5 in an unprecedented joint speech to warn China was their biggest “game-changing challenge”.
“The tempo at which the Chinese intelligence services and other proxies acting on their behalf have been going has been blistering for quite some time now,” the FBI chief warned.