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Chinese Hackers Have A Weapon Of Mass Destruction That No One Is Talking About


The rousing report out of Mandiant about Chinese internet exploitation focused primarily on the widespread, systematic, state-sponsored thievery of proprietary data.

What it also mentioned (almost in passing) was the penetration of American energy structures, what most people call “critical infrastructure.” Exploiting the aging electrical grid, in a cyber-military strike, has been a growing concern of planners in the U.S. Government.

Yet hackers don’t normally headline talk of aging grids.

Usually talk of electrical Weapons of Mass Destruction is accompanied with conjecture about space-bound nuclear bombs and their theoretical electromagnetic pulse (EMP) — a shockwave that knocks out circuits, transformers and just about anything requiring electricity.

Newt Gingrich’s grave EMP assertions during the Republican primaries (famously couched with punchlines about “Moon bases”) immediately met with criticism from experts in the defense community. Such a projectile would be detected and shot out of the air, or space, they said.

Late last year we covered how Boeing had developed an EMP missile, capable of flying over a city and permanently zapping its electrical structure. While that might not be the most likely candidate for an assault on the American grid, it further legitimized electrical grids as potential targets.

It seemed like loss of proprietary, corporate information trumped the news headlines, but the Mandiant report also showed that it’s not EMPs which truly threaten America’s grid.

It’s software exploits, particularly from the Chinese military.

A Department of Homeland Security official told the WSJ in 2010 that network inspections had “found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components,” following hacks from Russia and China.


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