The security breach occurred late last spring when Defense Department monitors detected the penetration of "elements of an unclassified e-mail system" that was immediately taken off line, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. "There was never any threat to the classified systems," Whitman said.The Financial Times reported Monday that current and former officials said "with a very high level of certainty" that China's People's Liberation Army was responsible.
"There was no disruption to (defense) operations or adverse impact to ongoing operations that the department was conducting ... all precautionary measures were taken and the system was restored to service," he said.
"The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our system . . . and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt on a very large scale," said a former official, who said the PLA had penetrated the networks of US defence companies and think-tanks.
The Pentagon declined comment on that report but China rejected it vociferously, the FT reported Tuesday.
Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday the accusations against China were "absurd." "The criticism is unfounded, which represents cold war thinking," she said.
... The Chinese government always opposes and fights any crime which would destroy computer networks, including hacking.”
While not commenting on the Financal Times report, Whitman did say that hackers attempt to probe the Pentagon's Global Information Grid hundreds of times a day.
Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported last month that hackers believed to be linked to the Chinese army had gained access to Merkel's office and the German Foreign Ministry. China's Foreign Ministry denied that report as well.