Top U.S. cyber official offers ‘stark warning’ of infrastructure attacks if China tensions escalate

China’s hackers have been positioning themselves to conduct destructive cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, a top U.S. cyber official warned Saturday.

Speaking at a panel at the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas, Jen Easterly, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, said, “I hope that people are taking seriously a pretty stark warning about the potential for China to use their very formidable capabilities in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan straits to go after our critical infrastructure.”

Such attacks would reflect a significant pivot from the type of cyberactivity historically attributed to China, which for years has largely consisted of a barrage of espionage and theft of data but not destructive attacks designed to harm systems.

Read more: NBC News