WASHINGTON – Senate's highest-ranking party asks the federal government to question whether a plan to build new subway cars in New York and Boston designed by a Chinese state-owned company could pose a security threat national.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York said Sunday in a statement that he had asked the Commerce Department to conduct a "thorough review" after CRRC, one of the world's largest train manufacturers, won a design contest for a new subway. cars that would include "modern train control technology".
The company has not won a contract in New York, home to America's largest public transit system, but has won contracts in recent years for new subway cars in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In announcing the winners of the contest last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the metro, said CRRC had offered to invest $ 50 million of its budget to develop the new cars. The competition was designed to bring out new ideas for future projects, but did not result in any contracts for new subway cars and the MTA is not currently buying any new cars.
But in recent years, China has pushed to dominate the US car market, a multi-billion dollar industry. The CRRC also reportedly signed a $ 500 million contract with the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington.
Security experts and members of Congress sounded the alarm about the CRRC, which belongs to the Chinese government. He warned against previous cyber threats and hacking attacks related to Chinese intelligence agents. They fear that allowing the company to install the technology in the US rail system may potentially expose it to cyber espionage and sabotage.
Schumer's call for an investigation comes as tensions between the United States and China rise after the break in trade talks between the two countries earlier this month without an agreement. A few days ago, President Trump signed a decree defining a national economic emergency authorizing the government to ban US telecommunications companies from installing foreign-made equipment and technologies that could pose a threat to national security. .
"The MTA has rigorous, multilayered and rigorously enforced safety standards, but we support the efforts of government agencies to strengthen this work," said spokesman Max Young.
CRRC spokesperson Sifang America – the company's arm in Chicago – said most of the components used in its new cars come from US companies and concerns about spying or malware are misplaced. The wagons meet the specific requirements set by the transit agencies, the manufacturer does not control the cyber components it installs and it is "impossible" to place malware in the system, he said.
"There is no evidence that a passenger car manufacturer, including CRRC, has installed a new technology that could intentionally open passenger cars to cyber threats or pose a threat to commuters and safety." "said spokesman Dave Smolensky. "The CRRC is eager to respond to all of Senator Schumer's concerns and we welcome an investigation into our US operations."
A bill was introduced in the House and Senate which, when passed, would prevent the use of federal funds for railway projects involving Chinese companies.
& # 39; & # 39; Given what we know about how cyberwarfare and recent attacks have affected transportation and infrastructure platforms across the country, the Department of Commerce must give the go-ahead and carefully check any proposal or work of the Chinese CRRC on behalf of New York. metro system, including our signals, Wi-Fi and more, "said Schumer in the statement.
In 2017, hackers attacked the Sacramento transit system and claimed cryptocurrency ransom. The transit agency said at the time that hackers had erased portions of programs on its servers that affected operations such as the ability to use computers to dispatch employees and assign buses. In 2016, a ransomware attack on San Francisco's public transit system resulted in ticket takers being shut down, allowing free rides for much of the weekend. And last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation was the victim of a similar attack that essentially froze hundreds of computers.
In recent years, the US Department of Justice has carried out several cases alleging computer hacking by Chinese intelligence services targeting Chinese cyber-espionage.
"This kind of national security responsibility is so big and complex that the MTA and other major city transit systems should not have to bear the burden of going it alone to assess whether CRRC's the work, and ongoing contracts across the country, are part of a larger strategy. We simply can not be too cautious here, especially now, in the midst of these tensions and general cyber threats, "Schumer said.
The Commerce Department did not immediately comment on Sunday.