Chinese government accused in hacking scandal

February 26th, 2013

A computer security company released a report on Feb. 19 detailing how the Chinese government has engaged in numerous cyberwarfare attacks on the U.S. in recent years, claiming that it has even pinpointed the exact location the perpetrators are based in. The report issued by Mandiant Corporation describes how nearly 150 American companies, many involved with components of the country’s infrastructure, such as power grids, financial servers and air traffic control, have been targeted by hackers stealing classified information.

The report concludes that the attacks are conducted by a specialized cyberwarfare unit of the People’s Liberation Army (China’s military), known as Unit 61398, as the sources of the attacks are concentrated around the unit’s headquarters in Shanghai. “It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat that threat effectively,” the report urged.

Allegations of Beijing conducting cyberwarfare are not new; in late January, The New York Times reported that for the past several months Chinese hackers had targeted its employees and databases. But the latest report is one of the most comprehensive public documents implicating the Chinese government in the matter.

Cyberwarfare has become an increasingly important field in military and intelligence circles, with the U.S. Air Force and Navy setting up units dedicated to these purposes. In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, he specifically called for the improvement of cyber security efforts, and had earlier signed an executive order taking several measures to support that initiative.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have also conducted cyberattacks of their own, utilizing a computer virus known as “Stuxnet” to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program.

China has angrily denied the accusations, claiming that hackers had been hijacking its networks for malicious purposes, and called the Mandiant report baseless.

The U.S. and China have experienced a see-saw relationship over the past few decades. This scandal is just another one to add to the list of events that have circulated between the two nations.

Information from The New York Times was used in this report.