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China’s Alleged Cyber Theft Detailed to US Lawmakers

  • Michael Bowman

The United States remains vulnerable to unrelenting Chinese Web-based cyber theft on a massive scale, according to Internet security experts who briefed U.S. lawmakers Tuesday.

Last month, information security firm Mandiant issued a report alleging that U.S. government and private computer networks are under near-constant attack from a military unit of Chinese hackers.

The head of the American company, Kevin Mandia, appeared on Capitol Hill to provide details to a Senate Armed Services subcommittee.

“This is an extensive effort to pilfer intellectual property out of this country," he said.
Mandiant says China seeks a shortcut to economic gain by stealing Web-based intellectual property. The firm’s chief security officer, Richard Bejtlich, hypothesized on China’s motivations.

“They think, ‘This is the engine of growth. This is how we are going to provide jobs for our people, create world-leading brands. We are going to take this innovation from the West and put it in our own products and services'." he said.

Bejtlich said many countries engage in some form of state-sponsored Internet espionage, but that China is unrivaled in the scope and aggressiveness of its activities.

Mandiant’s report clearly caught the attention of lawmakers. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan said, “Based on this report, there is simply nothing left, in my mind, for the public to doubt about the magnitude and relentless character of China’s theft of American technology and other valuable business information.”

China has denied wrongdoing.

Mandiant recommends constant vigilance to Internet threats, but Kevin Mandia says no form of cyber security is foolproof.

“We will probably never get to perfection here, because I cannot think of one technical way to prevent all attacks. Technology is just evolving too quickly," he said.

The chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, has urged the Obama administration to directly confront China on the issue and press for an enforceable accord on Web security.