US President Joe Biden’s administration believes China has implanted malware in key US power and communications networks in a “ticking time bomb” that could disrupt the military in the event of a conflict, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The Times, quoting US military, intelligence and security officials, said the malware potentially gave the Chinese People’s Liberation Army the ability to disrupt US military operations if Beijing were to move against Taiwan at some point.
The affected systems could allow China not only to cut off water, power and communications to US military bases, but also to homes and businesses across the US, the newspaper said.
The report comes two months after Microsoft Corp warned that state-sponsored Chinese hackers had infiltrated critical US infrastructure networks.
Microsoft singled out Guam, a US Pacific territory with a vital military outpost, as one target, but said that malicious activity had also been detected elsewhere in the US.
It said that the stealthy attack, carried out since mid-2021, was likely aimed at hampering the US in the event of a regional conflict.
Authorities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain warned at the same time that Chinese hacking was likely taking place globally, affecting an extensive range of infrastructure.
Discovery of the malware sparked a series of meetings in the White House Situation Room involving top military, intelligence and national security officials in an effort to track down and eradicate the code, the Times said.
The newspaper quoted one congressional official as saying that the malware operation amounted to “a ticking time bomb.”
The White House issued a statement on Friday that made no mention of China or military bases.
“The Biden administration is working relentlessly to defend the United States from any disruptions to our critical infrastructure, including by coordinating interagency efforts to protect water systems, pipelines, rail and aviation systems, among others,” National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said.
He added that Biden “has also mandated rigorous cybersecurity practices for the first time.”
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