Chinese Military Hacks Critical US Infrastructure, Raising Concerns of Potential Chaos in Event of Conflict

Chinese Military Hacks Critical US Infrastructure, Raising Concerns of Potential Chaos in Event of Conflict

Chinese military hackers have infiltrated the computer systems of key American infrastructure, including power and water utilities, as part of a broader effort to disrupt and sow chaos in the event of a US-China conflict in the Pacific.

The Chinese military has been actively targeting critical American infrastructure, such as power and water utilities, transportation systems, and communication networks, in an attempt to develop capabilities to disrupt and sow panic in the event of a conflict with the US. Hackers affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army have successfully breached the computer systems of about two dozen critical entities over the past year. While the intrusions have not caused any disruptions or affected industrial control systems, they highlight China’s growing cyber capabilities and its potential to complicate US efforts in the Pacific region.

A Strategic Cyber Campaign

The cyber campaign, dubbed Volt Typhoon, was first detected by the US government about a year ago. It is part of China’s broader strategy to develop ways to disrupt critical infrastructure and logistics in the event of a conflict with the US. The recent disclosures shed light on the Chinese military’s attempts to pre-position itself to be able to disrupt or destroy critical infrastructure, preventing the US from projecting power into Asia or causing societal chaos within the US.

Targets and Methods

Among the victims of the Chinese cyber intrusions are a water utility in Hawaii, a major West Coast port, and at least one oil and gas pipeline. The hackers also attempted to break into the operator of Texas’s power grid. While the intrusions did not affect critical functions or cause disruptions, they reveal China’s interest in complicating US efforts to ship troops and equipment to the Pacific region. The hackers often mask their tracks by using innocuous devices like home or office routers, and their goal is to steal employee credentials for future use.

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A Shift in Chinese Cyber Activity

The Chinese military’s attempts to compromise critical infrastructure mark a significant change from its previous focus on political and economic espionage. The shift suggests that China is now focused on developing the ability to disrupt or destroy critical infrastructure in the event of a conflict. Chinese military officers have discussed using cyber tools to disrupt command-and-control networks, critical infrastructure, satellite networks, and military logistics systems in a conflict scenario, particularly in relation to a potential conflict over Taiwan.

The Implications and Response

The US government has long sought to improve coordination with the private sector and tech companies to detect and defend against cyber threats. The recent cyber intrusions highlight the need for stronger cybersecurity measures and information sharing between the government and private sector. The US government has urged companies to implement mass password resets, better monitoring of high-privilege accounts, and more secure forms of authentication. The NSA and other agencies recommend hardware tokens for multifactor authentication to prevent interception by foreign governments.


The Chinese military’s cyber intrusions into critical US infrastructure raise concerns about the potential chaos and disruption they could cause in the event of a conflict. While the recent breaches have not resulted in any disruptions, they highlight China’s growing cyber capabilities and its focus on pre-positioning itself to disrupt critical infrastructure. The US government and private sector must work together to strengthen cybersecurity measures and share information to better defend against cyber threats. As tensions between the US and China continue to rise, the need for robust cybersecurity measures becomes increasingly important to protect critical infrastructure and national security.

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