The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) is concerned that state actors could use cyber attacks to shut down U.S. critical infrastructure.
In a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Admiral Mike Rogers revealed that China is capable of attacking American aviation infrastructure, energy plants, transportation networks and financial companies.
Rogers explained that Chinese hackers have been able to penetrate U.S. networks for the purposes of reconnaissance. With the information they have gathered, China could stage a large-scale attack in the future, he warned.
The problem for the NSA chief is more complicated than that, however. States commonly use criminal gangs as proxies for attacks, making cyber attribution extremely difficult.
As the Admiral revealed:
“What concerns us is that access, that capability can be used by nation-states, groups or individuals to take down that capability.”
The U.S. federal government has assigned blame to China for a number of recent high-profile attacks, including the breach against the NOAA federal weather network satellites, as well as the White House hack.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei held a press briefing earlier this month, during which he discussed how hacking is forbidden by the Chinese government and that China is a regular victim of cyber attacks launched by the United States.
“The Chinese government resolutely cracks down on these activities,” Lei explained. “This reality is irrefutable.”
The NSA director went on to state that “probably one or two” other states are also capable of attacking U.S. critical infrastructure, but he declined to explain any further.
In response to these cyber threats, Rogers called on greater information sharing between the public and private sectors.
Rogers’ speech comes on the heels of the discovery of the Russian “BlackEnergy” Trojan inside software responsible for running U.S. critical infrastructure, malware which Russia could use to stage its own large-scale attack.