Chinese Malware Poses Risk to U.S., TX Utilities

Chinese Malware
Malware attack warning | Image by Suttipun/Shutterstock

The Biden administration has been searching for Chinese malware that may have been secretly installed in networks controlling necessary resources for civilian households and American military bases across the world.

The administration has already begun to brief members of Congress, state governors, and utility companies about what it has discovered in its search. One congressional official described the malware as “a ticking time bomb,” according to The New York Times.

Initial warnings about the malware came in May when Microsoft learned that a Chinese-sponsored actor, cyber-espionage group Volt Typhoon, invaded networks in the U.S. and Guam without being detected.

Microsoft’s report states that there is “moderate confidence” that the company is attempting to “disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.”

A Biden administration official reportedly confirmed the search and some of the conclusions to The New York Times. It is unclear whether the malware is allegedly meant to disrupt civilian households or the military.

According to the government official, the malware was much more widespread than initially thought, spanning across the U.S. and its facilities throughout the rest of the world, per NYT.

Adam R. Hodge, the acting spokesman for the National Security Council, wrote to The New York Times and declared the administration would continue to do everything possible to protect the country from every threat.

“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,” he said in a statement, per NYT.

John Miri, president of the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Alliance, said these security threats could be very dangerous since the malware code is so hard to find.

“This is a very sophisticated attack. This is not your…this is way beyond even what took down Colonial Pipeline, which disrupted the United States very significantly with its gas supplies, the very, very targeted attack,” said Miri, according to Fox 4 News.

“And then once the attackers get in, they look just like normal, normal activity. So once they get into [they are] very difficult to differentiate what’s real and what’s not without just shutting everything off.”

Miri added that these threats are a major concern and a “particular threat to the state of Texas,” per Fox 4.

Texas is home to 15 active military bases that contribute over $100 billion to the economy, per the Office of the Texas Governor.

Attacks on utilities at these locations could increase demand from the state’s power grid and threaten reduced power in some areas.

Ellie Breed, chief press officer for the Texas Public Utility Commission, said, “Grid reliability is the PUCT’s top priority,” adding that the commission is working to ensure “the grid is secure against all physical and cyber threats,” per Fox 4.

Despite the assurance from Breed, Texans should be prepared to deal with potential threats that cause a loss of power, said one energy expert.

“Well, you need to be prepared to go a day or two without electricity, and so keep some water and canned goods handy. Find a way to stay cool over the summer,” said Ed Hirs, an energy fellow with the University of Houston, per Fox 4.

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