(WASHINGTON) A former U.S. intelligence officer who was involved in efforts to identify terrorists prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States is warning China already could have what amounts to Trojan horses embedded inside the software running the nation’s critical infrastructures, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who today is an intelligence analyst on media outlets including Fox News, told G2 in an exclusive interview that the Chinese already have been conducting espionage on the nation’s critical infrastructures. Shaffer also is a senior fellow at the New York-based-London Center for Policy Research.
“The Chinese already have started,” Shaffer asserted. “Much of what used to be done to hack bulk power systems, SCADA systems, the Internet – it’s already being done.”
SCADAs, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems, are computer-based systems that monitor and control industrial processes remotely, enabling the automatic functioning of the nation’s critical infrastructures.
They monitor and regulate the national electrical grid system, the flow of oil and natural gas, nuclear power facilities, finance and banking systems, telecommunications, the pumping of fuel, food and water delivery, rail and truck transportation and traffic lights.
WND.com recently outlined how hackers can exploit existing security holes in SCADA systems to take control of the nation’s critical infrastructures.
As an intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Shaffer was involved in the “Able Danger” controversy. There it was claimed the agency failed to properly evaluate intelligence on the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and two others.
Able Danger was a classified military planning effort under the U.S. Special Operations Command and DIA to develop information on transnational terrorism.
Shaffer said the Chinese, whom current U.S. intelligence has implicated in the hacking of the critical databases of the Office of Personnel Management, did so without detection, raising the prospect that they also could sabotage such critical infrastructures as the national grid, finance and banking system, telecommunications and others which depend on Internet access.
The OPM hack which was only recently revealed publicly had been under way for almost a year, Shaffer said. He said the Chinese will use the information gleaned from the hacking of more than 21 million past, present and prospective federal workers and contractors, many with national security clearances, for espionage purposes.
He sees the Chinese having plans for the data.
“I see them doing a concerted reconnaissance of who can be available to penetrate us,” Shaffer said. “During the Cold War, the Russians spent a lot of time figuring out ways to get moles who have been at the White House or the Pentagon and places like that. Clearly, this information could be used for that and it would be information I would use it for.
“I don’t think that the intent here is to use the information except to use it to increase the Chinese [knowledge] of our government’s activities plus trying to recruit people clandestinely,” he said.
While Shaffer wouldn’t rate the OPM hacking on the level of a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 attack, he said the potential is there for the Chinese with their hacking skills to launch a “digital Pearl Harbor” on multiple critical infrastructures simultaneously.
He said the issue now is how the U.S. can prevent anything from being activated.