US official sees growing ‘aggressive’ cybersecurity threats in Asia

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the US has observed growing cybersecurity threats both at home and throughout Asia, and is warning against activity coming from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

“Malicious activity from the PRC is a real and present threat, not just for the United States, but for other countries as well and that’s why I’ve traveled such a distance here,” he told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin on Wednesday during a trip to Singapore.

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His remarks come amid heightened tensions between the US and China over a host of issues from trade to human rights and the status of Taiwan. The US government has long alleged that China runs extensive hacking operations and has repeatedly warned nations of security breaches stemming from the use of Chinese-run mobile networks and Internet technology.

Beijing routinely denies the accusations, saying it is a victim of cyberattacks and countering that the US is the “empire of hacking.”

Mayorkas said China has now become “very, very aggressive” in selling its telco technology globally. “We feel compelled to share the perils of allowing that to occur with our close partners and allies,” he added.

The US has broadly tried to beat back attacks from criminal hackers, who have successfully targeted everything from gas pipelines and meat factories to schools and hospitals. The Biden administration last month called on states and local governments to apply for new cybersecurity grants worth $1 billion over four years.

The US government has made numerous efforts to try to curb the deluge of attacks, including indicting hackers, going after entities that allegedly aid in laundering illicit proceeds and ordering software companies that do business with the government to attest that they comply with new cyber standards.

Speaking during a summit on cyber issues Tuesday evening in Singapore, Mayorkas warned “hostile nations including Russia and China have only become more sophisticated,” raising the risk of adverse consequences.

“These cyber operations threaten the economic and national security of everyone in this room,” he said.

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