US charges Chinese military hackers with industrial espionage

Five Chinese officials face charges over stealing secrets from US makers of nuclear and solar technology.
The US attorney general Eric Holder announced indictments against five Chinese military hackers on May 19, 2014, at the department of justice in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP
The US attorney general Eric Holder announced indictments against five Chinese military hackers on May 19, 2014, at the department of justice in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON // The United States announced on Monday unprecedented cyber espionage charges against five Chinese military officials accused of hacking into US companies to gain trade secrets.

The hackers targeted big-name makers of nuclear and solar technology, stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage, according to a grand jury indictment.

“Success in the international marketplace should be based solely on a company’s ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government’s ability to spy and steal business secrets,” said attorney general Eric Holder.

The alleged targets are Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric Co, Allegheny Technologies, US Steel Corp, the United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld.

The indictment, which includes charges of trade-secret theft and economic espionage, dramatises a longtime Obama administration goal to prosecute state-sponsored cyber threats, which US officials say they have grappled with for years. A recent government report said that more than 40 Pentagon weapons programmes and nearly 30 other defense technologies have been compromised by cyber intrusions from China.

The cybersecurity firm Mandiant also has linked a secret Chinese military unit to years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies.

In a statement, China’s foreign ministry said the US charges were based on “fabricated facts” and jeopardise China-U.S. “cooperation and mutual trust”.

“The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cybertheft of trade secrets. The US accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd.”

* Associated Press

Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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