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More Evidence Chinese Military Unit Hacked Hundreds of U.S. Computer Systems

February 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: A U.S. security firm charged today that there’s an all-out effort to break into computer systems in the U.S. and elsewhere. The report laid out an extensive case against China and its military.

The newest allegations of cyber-attacks by the Chinese government came up at the White House today. Reporters asked spokesman Jay Carney about a study that blames China’s military for a large-scale years-long hacking campaign.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: We have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cyber-theft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The report alleges this nondescript 12-story office building is the locus of the hacking. It’s situated in Shanghai and is run by unit 61398, a bureau within the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

A Virginia-based security firm, Mandiant Corporation, traced the hacking there and concluded it is one of the most prolific cyber-espionage groups in terms of the sheer quantity of information stolen. Mandiant said the Chinese stole reams of information from U.S. military contractors, energy companies, the aerospace and telecommunications industry and others.

In Beijing, a Chinese government spokesman called the report groundless, without addressing the specific findings.

HONG LEI, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman: China firmly opposes hacking, has implemented relevant laws and regulations and adopted strict enforcement measures to prevent hacking activities. China is also a victim of Internet hacking attacks.

We have stressed many times that hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous. Determining their origins is extremely difficult. We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, the Mandiant findings are some of the most detailed accusations yet against China over hacking.

More generally, a U.S. national intelligence estimate said this month that China is carrying out a major cyber-espionage campaign against American targets. And Apple said today it was hacked by the same group that attacked Facebook last week. Both companies said no data was compromised and both traced the attacks back to China.

The report noted that there have been more than 140 different victims since 2006, and that the Chinese unit maintained access to those networks for nearly a year on average.