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Al Qaeda, nation-states, and criminals are preparing for major cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure that could be comparable to the devastating September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, a senior Justice Department official said on Thursday.

“We’re in a pre-9/11 moment, in some respects, with cyber,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security in the Justice Department.

Carlin also said during remarks at a security conference that China’s government dared the Obama administration to provide court-level evidence of Chinese military hacking against the United States.

The dare resulted in the May 1 indictment of five members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hacking group known as Unit 63198, he said.

On cyber terrorist attacks, Carlin said: “It’s clear that the terrorists want to use cyber-enabled means to cause the maximum amount of destruction to our infrastructure.”

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