'It won't stop' | Chinese spies are 'targeting disgruntled U.S. workers', according to counterintelligence head

Chinese spies are 'targeting disgruntled U.S. workers', according to counterintelligence head

The U.S. must brace for an escalation in cyberattacks from an increasing number of global threat actors, with China posing the most significant danger.

This was the warning given by Michael C. Casey, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, at the CNBC CEO Council Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

China is “by far the most prolific actor out there and the one coming after us across the board and in the hardest way possible,” Casey stated, emphasizing a 100% surge in cyber incidents and ransomware demands.

He attributed this increase to China's recognition of America's technological edge, making it a prime target for cyberattacks.

“It won’t stop, because it works, because they keep succeeding,” he said. “China has published their list of desired technologies and then they go get it and it works.”

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A major concern for CEOs, according to Casey, is the growing use of "human assets"—individuals within organizations recruited to steal intellectual property, data, or other valuable information.

Given the challenge of monitoring every employee interaction, he advised CEOs to implement a layered defense strategy, focusing on critical information and restricting access to it.

Casey highlighted the need to address the underlying issues that make employees vulnerable to becoming human assets.

“These are the employees who are having money problems, marital problems that someone can take advantage of,” he explained. He called for programs to identify and support such employees, expressing surprise at the lack of insider threat awareness in many companies.

Addressing concerns about alienating essential tech talent, which often includes individuals of Chinese descent, Casey clarified the distinction between the Chinese government and Chinese Americans.

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“The PRC is an authoritarian state and there should be no confusion between that and Chinese Americans and people of Chinese descent,” he said.

While acknowledging that some may be vulnerable due to relatives in China, he urged companies to make informed distinctions.

Casey underscored the importance of collaboration between the private and public sectors. “If you don’t know your local FBI representative, you’re doing something wrong,” he stressed.

With China and Russia already targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, such as water supplies, Casey advised CEOs to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

“Leaders need to know what they would do if the worst thing happens,” he said, urging proactive measures to mitigate potential disruptions.

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