Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.
The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.
“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”
The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.
This is not the first accusation of cyber-spying this year. From Telegraph:
The US government is however convinced China is endeavouring to overtake the US as the dominant force in cyberspace. Researchers at the University of Toronto recently revealed the presence of GhostNet, a global cyber-spy network run from China that has infiltrated 103 countries and infected dozens of computers every month.
The ten-month investigation by the Munk Centre for International Studies in Toronto started as an investigation into interference with computers on computers belonging to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, and his supporters. It found that the Chinese had in many cases successfully searched computers, tapped into emails and turned on web cameras and microphones to record conversations within range.
Update: China has denied any role in the power grid hack. From Wall Street Journal:
“The intrusion doesn’t exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular press conference. “We hope that the concerned media will prudently deal with some groundless remarks, especially those concerning accusations against China.”
“I have also noticed that the U.S. White House had denied the media reports,” she said.
A report in the state-run China Daily cited Chinese experts who rejected the so-called “China threat” theory and tied it to the financial crisis.