Researchers say the state-sponsored espionage operation may also lay the groundwork for disruptive cyberattacks.
AS STATE-SPONSORED HACKERS working on behalf of Russia, Iran, and North Korea have for years wreaked havoc with disruptive cyberattacks across the globe, China’s military and intelligence hackers have largely maintained a reputation for constraining their intrusions to espionage. But when those cyberspies breach critical infrastructure in the United States—and specifically a US territory on China’s doorstep—spying, conflict contingency planning, and cyberwar escalation all start to look dangerously similar.
On Wednesday, Microsoft revealed in a blog post that it has tracked a group of what it believes to be Chinese state-sponsored hackers who have since 2021 carried out a broad hacking campaign that has targeted critical infrastructure systems in US states and Guam, including communications, manufacturing, utilities, construction, and transportation.
The intentions of the group, which Microsoft has named Volt Typhoon, may simply be espionage, given that it doesn’t appear to have used its access to those critical networks to carry out data destruction or other offensive attacks. But Microsoft warns that the nature of the group’s targeting, including in a Pacific territory that might play a key role in a military or diplomatic conflict with China, may yet enable that sort of disruption.