FBI Director Christopher Wray said the threat coming from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is "more brazen" and "more damaging than ever before" with U.S. counter-intelligence operations opening every 12 hours.
"There’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation and economic security than China," Wray said Monday, speaking from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. "The Chinese government steals staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries."
The director said the bureau currently has more than 2,000 open investigations into the Chinese government’s attempts to steal private information and intellectual property.
The FBI issued an additional warning this week as U.S. athletes prepare for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, telling the competitors and their teams to stay off social media.
Chinese authorities said the country would weaken its notorious firewall that typically blocks its citizens from being able to access sites like Facebook, Twitter and even news outlets like Reuters and the BBC, in light of the surplus of foreign travelers.
But the top security agency said this could open Americans up to the threat of Chinese cyber espionage tactics.
"The FBI urges all athletes to keep their personal cellphones at home and use a temporary phone while at the Games," the Department of Defense warned Monday. "Adversaries could use social engineering and phishing campaigns leading up to and during the event to implant malware to disrupt networks broadcasting the event."
Wray argued that China poses a greater threat to the U.S. than Russia because of its global economic reach and capabilities.
Though Moscow has made headlines because of its known use of cybercrime tactics, the FBI director said China has unleashed a hacking program that is "bigger than those of every other major country combined."
While Russian cyberschemes have attempted to thwart American access to services like water, energy and even meat, China has used cybercrime to steal U.S. data for intelligence purposes.
"They’re not just hacking on a huge scale but causing indiscriminate damage to get to what they want," Wray added.
In addition to the increased threat from China, security officials also pointed to attempts by cybercriminals to profit from the Olympic Games in the past.
The FBI said that during the 2020 Tokyo summer games, which were moved to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 450 million cyber-related incidents were attempted by cybercriminals – though none was successful due to security measures that were in place.
"We’re confronting this threat and winning important battles," Wray said. "All of us in America, and across the free world, are in this together."