Washington: President Joe-Biden led administration started the hunt for malicious computer code as they believe China might have inserted them, designed to disrupt the US military operations in the event of a conflict, including if Beijing moves against Taiwan in the coming years, according to The New York Times citing the American military, intelligence and national security officials.
This came after Microsoft said it had detected mysterious computer code in telecommunications systems in Guam, the Pacific island with a vast American air base, and elsewhere in the United States. Although, it was only the narrow slice of the problem that Microsoft could see through its networks it triggered fears among the US administration.
The discovery of Malware has raised fears that Chinese hackers, probably working for the People’s Liberation Army, and also the issue was touched in the White House in recent months, as senior officials from the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the Homeland Security Department and the nation’s spy agencies attempt to understand the scope of the problem and plot a response.
The malware, according to a congressional official, was essentially “a ticking time bomb” that could give China the power to interrupt or slow American military deployments or resupply operations by cutting off power, water and communications to U.S. military bases. But its impact could be far broader, because that same infrastructure often supplies the houses and businesses of ordinary Americans, according to US officials.
More than a dozen US officials and industry experts said in interviews over the past two months that the Chinese effort goes far beyond telecommunications systems and predated the May report by at least a year, reported The New York Times.
They also stated that the US government’s effort to hunt down the code and eradicate it has been underway for some time. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential and in some cases classified assessments.
They say the investigations so far show the Chinese effort appears more widespread — in the United States and at American facilities abroad — than they had initially realized. But officials acknowledge that they do not know the full extent of the code’s presence in networks around the world, partly because it is so well hidden.
The discovery of malware was a debate inside the administration over whether the goal of the operation is primarily aimed at disrupting the military, or at civilian life more broadly in the event of a conflict. But officials say that the initial searches for the code have focused first on areas with a high concentration of American military bases.
US and China’s relationship has been deteriorating since February 2023 when America felt that there was a spy balloon of Beijing that was floating in their territory.
China has accused the United States of hacking into Huawei, its telecommunications giant. Secret documents released a decade ago by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor now in exile in Russia, confirmed that American intelligence agencies did just that, as per The New York Times.
The continued official visits from the US have also not been a great help to America in improving the relationship.
Meanwhile, the New York Times also reported that there might be another theory which is that the code is intended to distract.
Chinese officials, US intelligence agencies have assessed, may believe that during an attack on Taiwan or other Chinese action, any interruptions in US infrastructure could so fixate the attention of American citizens that they would think little about an overseas conflict, The New York Times reported.
Denying the publications which stated that China is engaged in hacking and accusing the United States of being a far larger offender, Beijing’s embassy in Washington issued a statement on Saturday, saying, “We have always firmly opposed and cracked down on all forms of cyber-attacking in accordance with the law.”
“The Chinese government agencies face numerous cyberattacks every day, most of which come from sources in the US,” Haoming Ouyang, an embassy spokesman wrote, adding, “We hope relevant parties will stop smearing China with groundless accusations.”