Hackers linked to China’s military have allegedly hacked into at least two-dozen U.S. natural gas pipeline operations.  The report suggests the intelligence gathered could later be used to sabotage numerous gas line operations.

According to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report, hackers have successfully broken into numerous U.S. gas pipeline operators from December 2011 through June 2012.  The hackers infiltrated 23 gas pipeline companies by sending e-mails that looked to be official but contained viruses or Trojan horses used to break into the computer system. 

The information stolen was in-depth and the DHS feels this intelligence could later be used to sabotage and take down those gas lines.  Of the 23 gas line operators at least ten of them were hit with information extracted.  Another ten gas line operators were broken into, but it is uncertain if anything was obtained and is still under investigation.

The DHS report does not mention China or any Chinese backed group by name, but the independent security firm Mandiant Corporation confirmed the suspicion.  The facts in Mandiant’s detailed report show how they traced recent government hacks back to China.  The intro to the document reads in part,

Our research and observations indicate that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is tasking the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to commit systematic cyber espionage and data theft against organizations around the world.

Presently 30% of the U.S. power grid is dependent on natural gas.  This recent intelligence stolen by the Chinese military could, at least in theory, give them an advantage in destroying natural gas compressor stations in different regions around North America, essentially shutting the economy down with the press of an enter key.

A detailed report from the Obama Administration titled, “Administration Strategy on Mitigating The Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets”, published on February 13, 2012, discusses  the need of beefing up the U.S. infrastructure to prevent these types of future attacks.  More importantly the report gives detailed examples of how trade secrets of major companies are being stolen as well. 

During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address he iterated the need for the U.S. to catch up on securing its computer network infrastructure. “America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks,” The President said in part.  “… [W]e know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions.”