A group of Republican lawmakers has called on the Biden administration to address alleged Chinese malware attacks targeting key government officials and utility companies serving civilian users and U.S. military installations and networks worldwide.
On Thursday, Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.) organized a letter (pdf) to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and NSA Cyber Security Director Rob Joyce, calling on them to brief the House Armed Services Committee about the extent of the alleged hacks, how long the Biden administration has been aware of such acts and what steps are being taken to address it.
Last month, Microsoft revealed that a suspected Chinese state-backed group known as Storm-0558 had compromised the tech company’s Outlook email systems. Reports have indicated this hacking effort affected U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Nicholas Burns and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The lawmakers also cited reporting by the New York Times that described hacking efforts by another suspected Chinese outfit called Volt Typhoon. The hacking group is suspected of having targeted public utility providers in Guam that serve both civilian and U.S. military users. Guam is located in the Philippine Sea and hosts strategically important U.S. Air Force and Navy bases. The island’s position could prove strategically significant if the People’s Republic of China and its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seek to assert control over the island of Taiwan or the neighboring South China Sea.
“The increase in CCP attacks on U.S. basing and military infrastructure are matched with their increasingly aggressive behaviors in the Taiwan Strait, Philippine Sea, and other international waters and airspace in the INDOPACOM region,” reads the letter to Mr. Austin and Mr. Joyce.
“Leaving CCP aggression unchecked only invites expanded CCP bellicose behaviors. CCP aggression in the Cyber Domain must be met with a firm, resolute, and measured response from the United States.”
The alleged hacking attacks are of added concern because the systems that have been targeted are widely used not only by the government and military but with critical infrastructure and other public settings. The lawmakers raised concerns that a cyberattack that hinders critical infrastructure can hinder the U.S. military’s mobility and operational capabilities.
“What guardrails are in place to protect our military critical infrastructure, including our electrical grid, communications systems, and water supply, particularly in responding to a contingency in the Indo-Pacific?” the lawmakers asked in one of the questions they posed to Mr. Austin and Mr. Joyce. “What are the shortfalls and what is the Administration doing to close these gaps?”
NTD News contacted the Department of Defense for comment, but the department declined to respond, stating it would reserve its comments for when it responds to the lawmakers.
NTD News also reached out to the NSA, but the agency did not reply by the time this article was published.
Mr. Alford was joined on the letter by Reps. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Jen Kiggans (R-Fla.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), Robert Wittman (R-Va.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Cory Mills (R-Fla.) Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and James Moylan (R-Guam).
China Concerns Rise
The questions about the threat posed by these suspected Chinese hacking incidents come amid strained relations with the CCP regime and heightened concerns about its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region and on the broader global stage.
Last month, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) accused the Biden administration of slowing arms sales to Taiwan and urged officials to reverse course in hopes of deterring the PRC from moving against the self-governing island. State Department Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink denied assertions that the Biden administration has been pullings its punches concerning support for Taiwan and opposition to the CCP.
Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have gathered in support of legislation that would block Chinese investors from buying up U.S. farmland. The idea has caught on at both the federal and state level.
A provision was also added to the Senate version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act last week that would require American tech companies to notify the Treasury Department of any dealings with China-based companies.
On Wednesday House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the CCP introduced another bill that would strip the preferential tax-exempt status of universities, non-profits, public pension funds, and other institutions that refuse to divest from China.
From NTD News