Yesterday, the director of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers said that China and “probably one or two” other countries have the ability to invade and potentially shut down computer systems of US power utilities, aviation networks and financial companies. As he testified to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on cyber threats, Rogers said that digital attackers have been able to penetrate such systems and perform “reconnaissance” missions to determine how networks are put together.
What the NSA is concerned about is that this capability can be used by nation-states, groups or individuals to disastrous consequences. Rogers said that China was one of the countries with this capability, and while he didn’t name any other specific countries, he said that others did as well. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, the Chinese government “forbids” cyber hacking, and their own government is frequently a victim of such attacks originating from the US, and the Chinese government “resolutely” cracks down on such activities.
Rogers’ testimony comes two days after a bill to overhaul the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records failed in the Senate. Chances are that privacy advocates will now have to start over to pass a law to reform US surveillance rules. At the hearing, Rogers said that telephone companies continue to provide their records to the NSA, but under stricter rules than when the program was exposed a year ago by former contractor-turned-mole Edward Snowden. According to Rogers, the agency would wait before moving forward with technological changes in anticipation of the new law, as the agency and telephone companies would rather wait to see what might be included in any new law.