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FBI Chief Seeks More Help From Companies to Fight China Hacking

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(Bloomberg) — FBI Director Chris Wray urged companies to work more closely with law enforcement to stop foreign hacking, as he reiterated warnings about Chinese infiltration of American information networks. 
Wray, addressing the Economic Club of New York by video Thursday, said hackers backed by the Chinese government made up the lion’s share of cyber attacks on American enterprises and that their methods and strategies were becoming more sophisticated. Hackers often work with company insiders to target proprietary information, while foreign companies sometimes try to use transactions like a joint venture partnerships to gain access, Wray said.

“Most of the time, that threat is coming from the Chinese government or companies under its sway. And to say they’re well-resourced is an understatement,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “No company is armed to defend against that kind of multi-avenue threat alone. That’s why we’ve got to work together.”

Some firms have asked Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to better blend in with their surroundings when working in their offices, Wray said. 

“We’re not going to be descending on you in cyber-raid jackets,” he said. “We’ve even had companies out west ask us to show up in hoodies to blend in — and that’s just fine.”

China has been implicated in a number of high-profile hacks in the past including one on Microsoft Corp. in March. Beijing has repeatedly dismissed such claims, saying that tracing the source of cyber attacks is a complicated technical issue that should be based on evidence. The U.S., U.K. and their allies formally attributed the hack of Microsoft Exchange to Chinese government affiliated actors in July and accused Beijing of an array of “malicious cyber activities.”

“The U.S. ganged up with its allies and launched an unwarranted accusation against China on cybersecurity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at the time. “It is purely a smear and suppression out of political motives. China will never accept this.”

Wray said the FBI needs to work closely with private companies to stem hacking. He called on companies to build closer relationships with the agency. 

“We’re up against some daunting threats posed by nation-states, cybercriminals, and toxic combinations of the two,” he said. “And we can only prevail with the help of our partners throughout the private sector — you.”

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