State Governments Are Exposing America’s Infrastructure to Cyberattacks

State Governments Are Exposing America's Infrastructure to Cyberattacks

( – As of January 12, ABC News reported that almost half of the states in the union had banned the use of TikTok on a governmental level, heeding the warnings of the FBI and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The social media app owner, ByteDance, is headquartered in China, and there are fears the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could have access to user data and use it for reasons unknown. Beyond the video-sharing app, however, there’s an even more insidious threat from China that could be more widespread. It lies inside the computers many state governments use, leaving them open to damaging cyberattacks that could target infrastructure.

Details About the Threat

On a federal level, the US has been systematically banning the use of any Chinese technology that may impose a national security threat to the country’s infrastructure. In December, ABC News reported the FCC voted to block imports and sales of communications equipment made by two companies — Huawei and ZTE — based in the Asian nation. The commission also chose to restrict video surveillance systems in the interest of national security. While that might do some good on a national level, state governments could still be vulnerable to cyberattacks that could affect the very fabric of how the regions run.

In fact, a report from Mandiant in early December reported the Chinese hacking group APT41 compromised the networks of at least half a dozen state governments between May 2021 and early 2022. Although the company didn’t outline the exact goal of the intrusion, the fact that the hackers could exploit vulnerabilities at the governmental level is concerning.

A report from the fall of 2021 outlined part of the potential issue. China Tech Threat reported 38 states had contracts with banned tech companies from the Asian nation. The Epoch Times noted that Mandiant found the CCP had used “planted bugs” hidden within Chinese hardware to commit cyber crimes in more than 18 states. Karla Jones, who serves as the American Legislative Exchange Council Federalism and International Relations Task Force’s executive director, called state governments “the weakest link” for such attacks.

Resolving the Issue

In June 2021, the Texas Legislature passed SB 2116: The Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act. The law prohibits contracts and agreements for critical infrastructure with certain foreign-owned companies. Countries on the list include China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. In 2022, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) signed Georgia Senate Bill 346 into law. This measure stops the Peach State from accepting contract bids from any companies “owned or operated by China.”

The laws are now prompting some other states to try and follow suit. Those areas include Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, but they’re only in the early stages of legislation. State Representative Terry Roy (R-NH) believes the federal government should help guide states on the matter in order to get things done. As a state official, he said he simply doesn’t get the intelligence briefs he needs to push the issue and show how much of a threat China really is.

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