Chinese 'military hackers' charged with cyber espionage against US companies

Chinese 'military hackers' charged with cyber espionage against US companies

Summary: First-of-its-kind case alleges US companies were targeted by Chinese "state actors".

TOPICS: Security

The US has charged five men who it described as "military hackers" with hacking into US corporations to steal secrets that could be useful to Chinese companies, in the first case of its kind.

A grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania indicted the five men for computer hacking, economic espionage and other offences directed at six US organisations in the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to hack into US organisations to steal information that would be useful to their competitors in China, including state-owned enterprises. 

"This is a case alleging economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking," US Attorney  General Eric Holder said. 

"The range of trade secrets and other sensitive business information stolen in this case is significant and demands an aggressive response. Success in the global market place should be based solely on a company's ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government's ability to spy and steal business secrets."

The US Justice Department said the five men were officers in Unit 61398 of the Third Department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

The US Justice department said the hacking took place between 2006 and this year and organisations targeted included Westinghouse Electric Co, US subsidiaries of SolarWorld, US Steel, Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI), the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) and Alcoa Inc.

FBI director James B. Comey said: "For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries."

The Department of Justice noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. The Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

Topic: Security

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  • Waste of time and money.

    Nothing is going to happen over this.
    • Not so sure

      At the very least, there will either be a trial, or the defendants will plead guilty and thus be compelled to turn state's evidence.

      If I were the Chinese Ambassador to the US, I'd be very unhappy about this state of affairs.
      John L. Ries
      • What trial?

        Nobody will show up.

        And If I were the Chinese Ambassador I would be preparing charges against the NSA for doing the same thing.
        • Why? Are they in China?

          Neither the article nor the indictment itself say so. But if such is the case, then nothing will happen until/unless they end up in US custody. Obviously, China won't be extraditing them, but their freedom of movement might be seriously affected.
          John L. Ries
      • A Trial

        It would be a trial in absentia I'm sure. I can't imagine these people voluntarily coming here nor can I imagine them being extradited. Not much chance of anything coming of this except hard feeling all the way around.
  • Kettle

    Isn't that like calling the kettle black?
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

    Is the U.S. DOJ certain that branches of the U.S. gov't/military don't do the same?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • It amazes me the naive people out in the world

      NSA this and NSA that... give me a break. the US is so far behind the other countries it's us that are catching up. But I don' think NSA i stealing secrets, just information. right or wrong I could careless. We are just now in the mix. I have family that work for the FBI - what you guys worry about is comical.
      • Play

        Play victim much?
      • Navaive and not very PRODUCTIVE !!!!

        ScanBack ,
        I agree with you here, and not only this.....It took the US from 2006 to 2014 to finally have the US Justice Dept. makes us aware of this espionage fiasco....that's 8YEARS !!.
        They have been gathering all this for 8 Years, there is no telling really on how much "Secrets" Communist China has stolen from the US. I would be embarrassed if I was a member or agent of this task force for taking so long investigating and gathering info(s) in this espionage case.
      • The naiveté is on your side

        The US has been looting intellectual property from other countries for decades by various means. They have been abusing joint intelligence operations in Europe to strip mine their hosts, they have infiltrated allied governments to get their hands on high tech data and have violated sundry laws and conventions in their efforts to get ahead.

        German industry is ranking the US at #3 after China and the CIS states in IP theft, and that's not simply US companies engaging in that theft but very much government agencies. I guess they intend to get on the good side of some senators who have their hands on the purse string by providing some of the companies in their home state with a nice gift from Uncle Sam.
  • Chinese 'military hackers' charged with cyber espionage against US companie

    Really ? What about what the NSA has been doing to US Citizens and other Governments ? Is that not also CYBER ESPIONAGE ? I believe it is.
  • I think things will just get worse.

    First, by precedent, it gives the Chinese the right to accuse and convict the NSA for illegal activity...

    Then it gets to put anyone in prison/execute that they accuse of working with the NSA for membership in an "illegal criminal organization".
    • It wouldn't be the NSA as an organization

      I doubt that Chinese law provides for the criminal prosecution of foreign government agencies; rather it would be specific NSA employees. And I'm guessing the only countries that would extradite someone to China for such an offense are Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos (and I'm not terribly certain about the last two).
      John L. Ries
  • Anybody heard about NSA?

    All other nations are ELIGIBLE to 'charge' US 'state actors' ...

    Don't throw stones sitting in a glass house.
  • This is beyond stupid

    A grand jury? Yeah, will be like that colossally dopey lawsuit decision in 2003 that found Saddam Hussein culpable in the 9/11 attacks (in part thanks to "testimony" by former CIA director James Woolsey and author Laurie Mylroie.) A recent Akamai report showed China to be awash in botnets while cybercrimininal headquarters Russia had less than even Canada -- somebody really doesn't understand how these things work...
  • I want to say to the US: you charge chinese army

    I want to say to the US: you charge chinese army, do you have any evidence or you are just slinging mud at them? When you do that again next time,look at what you have done first! By the way, do you happen to know someone named Snowdon?
  • The US is silly

    the Us is silly. Just a typical case of a thief crying "stop thief". Just the PRISM is enough for the world to sue US.
  • Stealing the secrets from the world all the time

    What the USA done is actually a robbing as they claimed to China, stealing the secrets from the world all the time. However, as a victim, the attitudes of the Chinese government towards network security is always consistent and clear.
  • "dangerous" and"criminal"

    Snowden's disclosures included statements that USgovernment undertook mass interception and tracking of Internet andcommunications dataand, allegations that the NSA engaged in "dangerous" and"criminal" activity by "hacking" civilian infrastructurenetworks in other countries such as "universities, hospitals, and privatebusinesses"