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FBI director sees threat from China’s AI program, talks Russia cyberattacks in Ukraine

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Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(DAVOS, Switzerland) — Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, FBI Director Christopher Wray described how his agency saw an increase in cyberattacks from Russia at the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine last year and he hammered the Chinese for their artificial intelligence program.

At the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022, the FBI observed a growing number of Russian attempts to carry out cyberattacks, Wray said.

“We did see, as the conflict erupted and increased, effort by the Russian intelligence services — which have been conducting malicious cyberactivity against U.S. infrastructure for years,” he said.

Wray also took aim at another U.S. competitor: China.

He predicted that China’s artificial intelligence program would be used by the country for more harm than good. Chinese officials have previously pushed back on criticism of its cybersecurity, calling such comments “groundless attacks” and “malicious smear[s].”

“The Chinese government has a bigger hacking program than any other nation in the world,” Wray said. “And their AI program is not constrained by the rule of law and is built on top of massive troves of intellectual property and sensitive data that they’ve stolen over the years and will be used, unless checked, to advance that same hacking program — to advance that same intellectual property — to advance the repression that occurs not just back home in mainland China but increasingly as a product that they export around the world.”

During his time as FBI director, Wray has used his bully pulpit to raise the specter of China’s growing international influence as well as the ability of so-called hack and steal programs to advance their goals.

Last month, the Justice Department charged a Chinese national with allegedly harassing a Chinese dissident in Boston.

Wray also said at the forum that he is concerned by the amount of data that is collected by autonomous vehicles and how it could be used to harm citizens.

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