WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey compared Chinese hackers to a “drunk burglar” who steals with reckless abandon, even as they cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Comey said Chinese hackers target the intellectual property of U.S. companies in China every day.
“I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They’re kickin’ in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they’re walking out with your television set. They’re just prolific. Their strategy seems to be: ‘We’ll just be everywhere all the time. And there’s no way they can stop us,'” Comey said.
The Justice Department earlier this year announced a 31-count indictment against Chinese hackers accused of breaking into computer networks at steel companies and the manufacturers of solar and nuclear technology, with the goal of gaining a competitive advantage. China has denied the allegations.
In the CBS interview, Comey also discussed the U.S. fight against terrorism. He described the terrorist networks within Syria as a sophisticated “metastasis” of al-Qaida.
He said the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria that was targeted in military strikes last month, was “working and, you know, may still be working on an effort to attack the United States or our allies, and looking to do it very, very soon.”
“Given our visibility we know they’re serious people, bent on destruction,” he said. The small group of al-Qaida veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan was targeted in strikes near Aleppo, Syria, last month. Senior U.S. officials have not said whether the group’s plots have been disrupted.
Comey said the U.S. believes there are about a dozen Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria. He said if someone has fought alongside the Islamic State militant group and tries to come back to the U.S., “we will track them very carefully.”
He said Americans should have confidence in changes made since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, pointing to a government “better organized, better systems, better equipment, smarter deployment. We’re better in every way that you’d want us to be since 9/11.”