Sat, Nov 22, 2014 - Page 1 News List

China can damage US power grid: NSA

AP and Reuters, WASHINGTON

China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks that would shut down the computer systems of US power utilities, aviation networks and financial companies, US Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and head of US Cyber Command, said on Thursday.

The possibility of such cyberattacks by US adversaries has been widely known, but never confirmed publicly by the nation’s top cyber official.

At a hearing of the US House of Representatives’ intelligence committee, Rogers said that US adversaries are performing electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

“All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

Outside experts say the US Cyber Command also has the capability to hack into and damage critical infrastructure, which in theory should amount to mutual deterrence. However, Rogers, who did not address his offensive cyber tools, said the nuclear deterrence model did not necessarily apply to cyberattacks.

Only a handful of countries had nuclear capability during the Cold War, and nuclear attacks could be detected and attributed in time to retaliate, he said.

By contrast, the source of a cyberattack can easily to cause significant damage is possessed not only by nation states, but by criminal groups and individuals, he said.

His remarks about critical infrastructure attacks came in response to questioning from US Representative Mike Rogers, who chairs the intelligence committee. He asked the NSA director about a private report detailing China-based intrusions into the power grid and other critical systems that appeared to be precursors to attack. What other countries, the chairman wanted to know, have the capability?

“One or two others,” the NSA director said, but he declined to name them, saying the information is classified.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said the Chinese government “forbids” cyberhacking and that it is often a victim of such attacks that originate from the US.

“The Chinese government resolutely cracks down on these activities. This reality is irrefutable,” Hong told reporters at a regular press briefing yesterday.

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