The Wall Street Journal reports: The Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officers, alleging they hacked U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, a major escalation in the fight between the two superpowers over economic espionage.
The indictment, unsealed Monday, marks the first time the U.S. government has publicly accused employees of a foreign power with cybercrimes against American firms. It also marks the most extensive formal allegations by the government of the kind of hacking that American corporations have long complained about, but until now have rarely acknowledged.
Among those named as victims in the document are brand names from America’s industrial heartland, including U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse Electric Co. and Alcoa Inc.
U.S. officials said other cases relating to China are being prepared. In addition, alleged hackers in Russia are likely to be charged soon, according to people familiar with the government’s investigations. U.S. agencies have also been investigating incidents with possible ties to Iran and Syria, these people say.
It is unlikely the suspects will ever be brought to trial in the U.S., since there is no extradition treaty with China. Yet in publicly naming the five, and providing details in a 48-page indictment, the Obama administration is ratcheting up the political and diplomatic costs to China and others if they use computers to steal secrets or attack U.S. interests. [Continue reading…]
Reuters adds: China on Tuesday summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing and warned it would retaliate if Washington followed through with the charges. It said the affair would damage “mutual trust”.
At the centre of the row is a nondescript tower block in the northern suburbs of China’s financial capital Shanghai, home to Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 61398.
The 12-storey block houses as many as several thousand staff, according to Mandiant, a U.S. cyber security firm recently acquired by global network security company FireEye Inc . Mandiant identified the location as the source of a large number of espionage operations in a 70-page report last year. [Continue reading…]