China Cyber Threat: U.S. Investing $20B To Shield Ports

Washington expects President Joe Biden to sign an executive order on Wednesday that will create a new federal rule regarding $20 billion in appropriated funds from the 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure bill to invest in cybersecurity against a possible threat from Chinese cybercriminals or the hackers working for the Chinese government.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the executive order will invest $20 billion in cybersecurity for the nation’s ports, for example, by changing cargo crane suppliers from China to domestic over the next five years.

“We felt there was a real strategic risk here,” said U.S. deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology Anne Neuberger.

“These cranes, because they are essentially moving the large-scale containers in and out of port, if they were encrypted in a criminal attack, or rented or operated by an adversary,” Neuberger explained, “that could have a real impact on our economy’s movement of goods and our military’s movement of goods through ports.”

“The claim that the China-made cranes pose a national security risk to the U.S. is entirely paranoia,” said Liu Pengyu — a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in D.C. — in a statement.

“We firmly oppose the U.S. overstretching the concept of national security and abusing national power to obstruct normal economic and trade cooperation between China and the U.S. Playing the ‘China card’ and floating the ‘China threat’ theory is irresponsible and will harm the interests of the U.S. itself,” Pengyu added.

But Rear Adm. John Vann, who leads the Coast Guard Cyber Command, disagrees. He said at a recent press briefing, “By design, these cranes may be controlled, serviced, and programmed from remote locations. These features potentially leave PRC-manufactured cranes vulnerable to exploitation.”

Earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, “China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike.”

Wray warned China may be “setting up back doors to cripple vital assets and systems in the event China invades Taiwan and therefore, limiting our ability to assist Taiwan.”