Chinese hackers strike ‘critical’ US infrastructure: Microsoft uncovers campaign targeting Guam amid fears Beijing will black out strategic base for assault on Taiwan
- US on Wednesday announced discovery of a new cluster of cyber attacks
- Breaches discovered by Microsoft appear to target infrastructure in Guam
- US says hacker group dubbed Volt Typhoon is backed by Chinese government
Chinese hackers have struck ‘critical’ US infrastructure, Microsoft revealed today in a campaign that targeted Guam sparking fears that Beijing is preparing to black out communications on the strategic base for an assault on Taiwan.
The tech giant said that state-backed hackers, dubbed ‘Volt Typhoon’, had been active since at least mid-2021 and are waging an ongoing breach of ‘critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the United States.’
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) confirmed that China was behind the breach across multiple government and private sector organizations.
Although the government did not name Guam, Microsoft stated that it had uncovered the breach ‘while investigating intrusion activity impacting a US port.’ Tom Burt, the executive who oversees Microsoft’s threat intelligence unit, told The New York Times that as they traced its impact they found numerous networks that were hit including some in the telecommunications sector in Guam.’
The group’s apparent focus on Guam is of particular concern, as the US territory is a key military base in the Pacific, and would be a major staging ground for any American response in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, May 19
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)as it is moored pier side at Naval Base Guam on May 15, 2020. The group’s apparent focus on Guam is of particular concern, as the US territory is a key military base in the Pacific, and would be a major staging ground for any American response in the event of a conflict in Taiwan or the South China Sea.
The group’s apparent focus on Guam is of particular concern, as the US territory is a key military base in the Pacific
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington DC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Wednesday afternoon.
Microsoft said it had notified targeted or compromised customers and provided them with information to identify and remedy any breaches.
The organizations targeted by Volt Typhoon spanned sectors including communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education, Microsoft said.
The company said that Volt Typhoon did not appear to have used the breaches to carry out offensive attacks, but rather that the group seemed to be focused on maintaining stealthy access to critical systems.
‘Observed behavior suggests that the threat actor intends to perform espionage and maintain access without being detected for as long as possible,’ said Microsoft.
CISA director Jen Easterly said: ‘For years, China has conducted aggressive cyber operations to steal intellectual property and sensitive data from organizations around the globe.
Chinese soldiers browse online news on desktop computers at a garrison of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) in Chongqing, China, 14 November 2013
‘Today’s advisory highlights China’s continued use of sophisticated means to target our nation’s critical infrastructure, and it gives network defenders important insights into how to detect and mitigate this malicious activity.
‘As our nation’s cyber defense agency, CISA stands ready to support our partners in protecting the critical services our citizens rely on every day from the threat of disruption.
‘We encourage all organizations to review the advisory, take action to mitigate risk, and report any evidence of anomalous activity. We must work together to ensure the security and resilience of our critical infrastructure.’
The hacker gang’s apparent focus on Guam raises alarm bells that its primary intent may have been to disrupt and sever US communications with Asia in the event of a military conflict.
Guam is home to major US military facilities, including the Andersen Air Force Base, which would be key to responding to any conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
Recently, China has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to force self-governed Taiwan to accept Beijing’s claim of sovereignty. Taiwan rejects China’s claims.
While the United States has long followed a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to use force to defend the island.
In recent years, China’s navy has also grown increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes.
China has claimed nearly the entire South China Sea as its territory. Parts of the vast waterway are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
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