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Raging Digital Warfare: US Fending off Thousands of Chinese Cyber Attacks

Published: February 3, 2022
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" Jan. 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Intelligence leaders discussed North Korea, Russia, China and cybersecurity among other topics. (Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) China is behind thousands of cyber attacks on U.S. businesses and government entities with authorities stating that China is responsible for more cyberattacks on the U.S. than every other country combined. 

In a speech titled, “Countering Threats Posed by the Chinese Government” on Monday, Jan. 31, FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, said that the FBI is currently conducting thousands of investigations focused on the Chinese government that the FBI says is attempting to steal U.S. information and technology in a “more brazen” way than ever before. 

In his speech, which took place at the Reagan Presidential Library just days before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin, Wray emphasized that the Chinese government is the problem, not the Chinese people.

“The Chinese government steals staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries — so much so that, as you heard, we’re constantly opening new cases to counter their intelligence operations, about every 12 hours or so,” Wray said.

As an example of the damage Chinese hackers have wrought Wray cited the Microsoft Exchange hack, which impacted an estimated 10,000 networks. Another incident cited involved a Chinese government-owned company that stole the source code from a wind turbine company in Massachusetts (American Superconductor) which resulted in 600 people losing their jobs. The company that launched the cyberattack is Sinovel. Sinovel used the stolen source code to sell wind turbines in the U.S..

Wray believes China is stealing key U.S. technologies in order to bolster its Made in China 2025 initiatives and discussed in his speech how the Chinese government can control companies it doesn’t own “through embedded Chinese Communist Party cells that are required to exist in virtually any Chinese company of any real size.”

In a recent interview with NBC Wray said that he was shocked by China’s aggressive efforts to steal U.S. technology when he first entered the role of Director in 2017.

“This one blew me away. And I’m not the kind of guy that uses words like ‘blown away’ easily,” he told NBC.

According to Wray, since 2017 the threat posed by the Chinese government has only grown and that hackers, working for the Chinese government, target companies and workers from small groups to large service providers. 

Wray acknowledged that not only does the theft of U.S. technological intelligence by the Chinese bolster China’s technological aspirations but it harms American industry.

“That harm — company failures, job losses — has been building for a decade to the crush we feel today. It’s harm felt across the country, by workers in a whole range of industries,” Wray said.

Officials within the Chinese government have consistently rejected the accusations, insisting that they are baseless. Outright denial of culpability, even in the face of unwavering evidence, is a typical strategy employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In July, 2021, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese embassy spokesman, said that the U.S. “ganged up with its allies to make unwarranted accusations against Chinese cybersecurity,” adding that, “This was made up out of thin air and confused right and wrong. It is purely a smear and suppression with political motives.”

On Monday, Wray said that the FBI is prepared for a “long fight” against the Chinese government and that “everyone involved in that fight can be certain that you will have no more committed partner than the FBI.”