News / Asia

Chinese Army Rejects US Report on Cyber Hacking

x
William GalloVictor Beattie
China is adamantly denying a report by a U.S.-based Internet security group that accuses Beijing's army of carrying out a "long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign" against American government and business targets.

Beijing's Defense Ministry on Wednesday released a statement saying the Chinese army has never supported cyber attacks. It said the Tuesday report by Mandiant "is not based on facts" and "lacks technical proof."

Mandiant says its investigation revealed that a secretive division of the People's Liberation Army, Unit 61398, was behind a group that carried out nearly 150 attacks on a wide range of mostly U.S. targets since 2006.

The White House would not directly comment on the report, but promised that it is taking all necessary steps to protect U.S. networks from cyber crimes and said it has raised the issue with Chinese leaders.

The Chinese government had already denied it was behind the attacks. On Tuesday, the foreign ministry said Beijing was the victim, not perpetrator, of computer hacking, saying such activity is against Chinese law.

Map of the APT1 hacking headquarters in Shanghai, China.Map of the APT1 hacking headquarters in Shanghai, China.
x
Map of the APT1 hacking headquarters in Shanghai, China.
Map of the APT1 hacking headquarters in Shanghai, China.
The Defense Ministry repeated that insistence on Wednesday, saying its own data suggested that a "considerable" number of hacking attempts against it originate from the United States.

It also questions Mandiant's methodology of using IP addresses, or computer identification codes, to trace dozens of the China-based attacks to a neighborhood surrounding a PLA building in Shanghai. It argues the codes could be re-routed to appear as if they came from a different location.

China has long been considered the source of many of the world's cyber attacks, and many suspect the involvement of China's government and military. But most computer scientists and foreign governments have refrained from making direct accusations against Beijing, since specific attacks are difficult to pinpoint.

  • People walk past Unit 61398 in Shanghai February 19, 2013, the unit believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks.
  • A Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in front of Unit 61398 in Shanghai. The Mandiant report says Chinese hackers have focused on stealing information like technology blueprints, manufacturing processes and other information from foreign companies.
  • Richard Bejtlich, Mandiant's Chief Security Officer: "The name of the game for this group is theft. From what we have seen they are there to take it and bring it back to China," he said of the group behind the cyber attacks.
  • Map of the APT1 hacking headquarters in Shanghai, China.
  • Part of the building of Unit 61398 in Shanghai.

Mounting evidence suggests Beijing's involvement

Internet security groups like Mandiant rely on several techniques that can trace the origin of malicious software back to China with with reasonable certainty, according to Brad Glosserman with the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum.

"They have particular signatures on them that we can identify and tell who has written similar software. That's number one. Number two, we look at the type of information being taken. Certain people want certain types of information ... and number three, we look at where it's going. And, while we can't be sure that this is ultimately the final end destination, when IP addresses are used consistently, we get a pretty strong conclusion that's where the attacks are coming from," Glosserman says.

Faced with mounting public evidence that it is involved in or does not take steps to halt cyber attacks, the Chinese government has responded by insisting it cannot control everything that occurs within its borders. But Beijing has a lot of incentive to claim it cannot do anything about the hacking, says Gabe Collins of the analysis group China SignPost.

"It makes a lot of economic sense for them," says Collins. "(Even) if there's not state support, there's literally probably billions of dollars in savings that accrue to the different Chinese laboratories and state-owned enterprises that can reap the fruits of this industrial espionage."

Collins points out that Beijing's state-controlled companies stand to profit from recent attacks that have stolen information on U.S. oil and gas companies, the Department of Defense and even information on one of America's most advanced aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Problem intensifying; could threaten ties?

Even though the U.S. and China consistently raise the issue and pledge cooperation on cyber security at regular dialogue sessions, the problem still seems to be getting worse, and some say it could threaten U.S.-China relations.

The prospect of being hacked by the Chinese government is something that U.S. companies will take under consideration when contemplating operations in China, says Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

"On the one hand they're being regulated by the Chinese government, and on the other hand they may find themselves on the receiving end of attacks coming from other parts of the Chinese government," says Chovanec.

Obama considering tougher stance?

The Obama administration is considering taking a more aggressive stance on Chinese hackers, according to recent U.S. media reports, which have quoted government officials as saying trade sanctions or fines are possible against those found guilty of cyber crimes.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama did not mention China by name, but said America must face the "rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks" from foreign countries.

"We know hackers steal people's identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy," the president said.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Professor_H from: USA
February 22, 2013 12:51 PM
As a retired federal prosecutor, I think the solution is simple: With the IP addresses fully disclosed by the claimant Mandiant, the burden shifts to the Chinese government to present full disclosure of how the IP addresses were spoofed or otherwise misaddressed. This is not rocket science! It is simple investigatory protocol.

by: Igor from: Russia
February 20, 2013 10:49 PM
If you believe in Chinese People's Liberation Army, you are a stupid fool, no more, no less. China is the main copyrights infringer in the world. They buy Russian weapons, imitate them and then sell them to other nations. They also do countless dirty things without concerning any moral regulation.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More