Five Chinese military officials were accused for hacking US companies databases with the purpose of acquiring trade secrets. Citing the cyber-espionage charges brought by the US on Monday, the hackers targeted the nuclear power, metals and solar products industries being accused of economic espionage and stealing trade secrets.
All the targeted companies are on American soil, through the victims we can find Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse, Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers Union, and SolarWorld, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.
These accusations are especially important as the Obama administration is long-time determined to prosecute all cyber-attacks that are funded by the state.
“In sum, the alleged hacking appears to have been conducted for no other reason than to advantage state-owned companies and other interests in China at the expense of businesses here in the United States,” Holder declared in a news conference held at the Justice Department. “This is a tactic that the United States government categorically denounces.”
“This is the new normal. This is what you’re going to see on a recurring basis.” said Bob Anderson Jr., executive assistant director of the FBI’s criminal, cyber response and services division.
These latest charges targeting the Chinese military officials were revealed right after a separate global operation that was carried over the weekend and resulted in the arrest of 97 people in 16 countries, suspected of developing, distributing or using malicious software. The software is called BlackShades and allows criminals to take over personal computers.
“These two cases show that we are stepping up our cyber enforcement efforts really around the globe,” Holder said, reinforcing that the United States will not allow these activities.
The war regarding cyber-attack accusations is not new between the United States and China. Assertions that China’s army and hackers living in China attacked US Industrial and military targets has been made in the past. Also China stated that it is a big surveillance target in the NSA’s and U.S. Cyber Command system.
“It is our hope that the Chinese government will respect our criminal justice system,” Holder said.
These charges will put an even bigger pressure on the relationship between China and the United States.
The tensions between the two countries comes from the Chinese pursuit of territorial claims regarding the East Asian seas. Hackers seems that have stolen emails and other documents in the purpose of helping the Chinese firms learning the strategies and weaknesses of the U.S. companies involved. The Beijing administration says that Washington’s focus on China is not benefic for them and is causing unwanted tensions in Asia.
Although the allegations are serious, at least one of the companies involved downplayed the hacking.
“To our knowledge, no material information was compromised during this incident, which occurred several years ago,” said Monica Orbe, Alcoa’s director of corporate affairs. “Safeguarding our data is a top priority for Alcoa, and we continue to invest resources to protect our systems.”
“China not only does not support hacking but also opposes it,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when he was asked if China will stop hacking U.S. websites in a news conference held last year. “Let’s not point fingers at each other without evidence but do more to safeguard cyber security.”