US, UK allege China-backed global hacking scheme

Hugh Fox
December 22, 2018

The Justice Department charged two Chinese nationals allegedly linked to the Ministry of State Security in connection with hacking attacks on government agencies including NASA, the Navy, and dozens of tech companies, and went on for more than a decade.

The charges drew a furious response from Beijing, which accused Washington of "fabricating facts".

The alleged hackers provided Chinese intelligence officials with sensitive business information, said USA deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

"The US side making unwarranted criticisms of China in the name of so-called "cyber stealing" is blaming others while oneself is to be blamed, and is self-deception".

Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the accusations made by the United States and other countries might have been born out of a general suspicion of China's political system. "But the evidence suggests that China may not intend to live up to its promises".

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This campaign is one of the most significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the UK and allies uncovered to date, targeting trade secrets and economies around the world".

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"These activities must stop", he said in a statement.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday "the Chinese Government has never participated in or supported anyone in stealing trade secrets in any way".

China has called the USA arrogant and selfish after it charged two Chinese citizens with stealing trade secrets and other sensitive information from American government agencies and corporations.

Britain, Australia and New Zealand joined the United States in slamming China over what they called a global campaign of cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft, signalling growing global coordination against the practice. According to the U.S. Justice Department, both men were "members of a hacking group operating in China known within the cyber security community as Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (the APT10 Group)" and were working "in association with the Chinese Ministry of State Security's Tianjin State Security Bureau".

Two Chinese nationals are at the centre of U.S. accusations against China of a state-sponsored cyber attack to steal information from 45 USA companies and government agencies, including Nasa, the USA navy, and the Department of Energy.

According to the indictment, filed in a federal court in NY, the group has been conducting extensive campaigns of global intrusions into computer systems since at least 2006.

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For example, a home computer or private phone that has been compromised by a cyber hack on a internet service provider can become, via the exchange of information between personal and work devices, an unwitting entry point to work networks in the private and public sectors that are not connected to the individual's ISP.

The indictments of the two men came less than two months after the United States charged 10 Chinese also allegedly linked to APT10- including two intelligence officers- over a five-year scheme to steal aircraft engine technology from U.S. and French aerospace firms.

Tensions between the two world powers have been running high over several issue, including a bitter trade war.

"China's goal simply put is to replace the U.S. as the world's leading superpower and they're using illegal methods to get there".

In early December, Canada arrested an executive of leading Chinese telecom company Huawei at Washington's request.

The US plans to charge her with fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran.

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Former President Barack Obama had secured an agreement from China not to engage in economic espionage (which the United States has carefully distinguished from "legitimate" espionage against security targets).

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