The Chinese government and military have engaged in widespread cyber espionage campaigns against the United States, an annual report claimed today.
The 83-page U.S. Department of Defense report, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" (PDF), says that intrusions originating from China have been designed to steal confidential information around the nation's "diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support national defense programs."
The annual report, submitted to Congress, states that China maintained a steady intelligence-gathering campaign last year. "Numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military," the report says. The Pentagon research continues:
"The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China’s defense industry, high technology industries, policymaker interest in U.S. leadership thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis."
In February, U.S. security firm Mandiant alleged that China was responsible for an "overwhelming number" of cyberattacks, releasing a report that traced cyber espionage campaigns back to a military building in Shanghai. Mandiant said that "the detals analyzed during hundreds of investigations convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them." In response, Chinese officials dismissed the report as "groundless," questioning the validity of the security firm's evidence to suggest a link between China and cyberspying.
The U.S. Department of Defense report is the first of its kind which directly and strongly links cyber espionage with the Chinese government. In response, state-owned news agency Xinhua cited Wang Xinjun, a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, who has called the accusations "irresponsible and harmful to the mutual trust between the two countries."
The researcher says that the "groundless" accusations reflect distrust between the U.S. and China. In addition, Xinjun says that it is irresponsible for the Pentagon to make such claims, as the Chinese government and military have never sanctioned cyberattacks. Calling the report an "allegation based on presupposition," the researcher suggests that instead of accusing each other the nations should collaborate to build mutual trust, or "more hostile actions will be expected in the future."
Both the United States and China have been victims of cyberspying campaigns. Research from Akamai Technologies recently suggested that while 41 percent of worldwide malicious traffic originates from China, the U.S. comes in second place, allegedly responsible for 13 percent of global attack-traffic.