Pipeline companies are the recent target of sophisticated cyber attacks, which may originate from China, intended to gain access to vital information on US natural gas pipeline, the Department of Homeland Security warned.

The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team encountered a series of multiple attempted intrusions since December and alerted natural gas and oil pipeline operators. The hackers are using “spear-phishing” where they use fake emails from other accounts to deceive the staff into revealing information or clicking on infected links.

There is still no clear source and motive for the attacks, however experts suggested that intruders wanted “to gain control of gas pipelines to disrupt supplies or access information about flows to use in commodities trading”. The Night Dragon campaign, a previous attack on the energy industry, obtained commercially sensitive data on oil and gas fields.

A Pentagon report claimed that China is active in economic espionage directed at US technology and defense information to build up its own military.