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FBI: China Is Behind Past Oil & Gas Pipeline Cyberattacks

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State-sponsored Chinese actors targeted U.S. oil and gas pipeline companies in a spearphishing and intrusion campaign between 2011 and 2013, a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory, coauthored by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), said this week.

Overall, the U.S. government identified and tracked 23 U.S. natural gas pipeline operators targeted from 2011 to 2013 in this spearphishing and intrusion campaign. Of the known targeted entities, 13 were confirmed compromises, 3 were near misses, and 7 had an unknown depth of intrusion.

The U.S. is attributing these attacks to “Chinese state-sponsored actors,” this week’s report showed. These actors specifically targeted America’s pipeline infrastructure for the purpose of holding U.S. pipeline infrastructure at risk, CISA and FBI said. The ultimate goal of those attacks was to help China develop cyberattack capabilities against U.S. pipelines to physically damage pipelines or disrupt pipeline operations.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied the accusations in the report, saying that the alert had confused “right and wrong,” South China Morning Post reports.  

“The US is the largest source of cyberattacks targeting China. Data in 2020 showed 53 per cent of the 42 million malicious cyber activities came from the US,” Zhao was quoted as saying, and added that the U.S. report was “thief crying stop thief.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a new security directive requiring owners and operators of critical oil and gas pipelines to implement additional protection against cyberattacks.

The increased attention to protection against cyber threats comes after a ransomware attack on the computer network of the key fuel pipeline for the U.S. East Coast, Colonial Pipeline, forced the pipeline operator to shut it down for five days in early May. The cyberattack and the subsequent shut down of the main pipeline for the Eastern Seaboard resulted in fuel shortages, a run on gas stations, and a spike in gasoline prices.

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