U.S. lawmakers were recently told that China represents a significant threat to America’s power grid and could shut down the nation’s power through a cyber attack.
During yesterday’s hearing held by the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Manny Cancel, Senior Vice-President of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, said, “The Chinese activities are quite alarming.”
Cancel also said that a Chinese cyberattack on the electric grid could shut down civilian and military sites.
He added, “Chinese cyber activities are one of the most dynamic cyber threats. China continues to demonstrate increasing sophistication, including new and adaptive techniques to gain access to networks,” as reported by Bloomberg.
The warning comes amid heightened tensions with China, as its ruling government — the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — positions itself to displace the U.S. as the world’s prevailing superpower.
A public memo released by the Committee announcing the hearing says that the U.S. electric grid “faces multiple threats that potentially could result in widespread power outages.”
According to the memo, physical security incidents rose more than 77 percent during 2022. The Committee also cautioned that the U.S. power grid is growing “increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks” and that the nation’s increased connectivity of energy infrastructure is expanding opportunity for attacks.
The cyber-threat posed by China has been an ongoing issue for U.S. security officials.
In May, the National Security Agency (NSA) warned that China was using state-sponsored hackers to target U.S. critical infrastructure with tools already built into American computer networks.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated in an annual threat assessment report released this February that China “almost certainly” would consider cyber attacks on critical infrastructure in order to deter the U.S. from military action, as the attacks would impede decision-making by U.S. officials, induce public panic, and interfere with the deployment of troops.
“China almost certainly is capable of launching cyber attacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the United States, including against oil and gas pipelines, and rail systems,” the ODNI report said.
An attack on the U.S. power grid would not be the first such attack for the CCP. Last year, it was reported that a Chinese hacking operation targeted India’s power grid in a “long-term operation” that impacted a number of power sector organizations.