US says Chinese government behind cyber espionage

The Chinese government and military have engaged in widespread cyber espionage targeting US government and business computer networks, the Pentagon said on Monday.

(Credit: Jared Kohler/CNET)

The Chinese government had maintained a steady campaign of computer intrusions in 2012 that were designed to acquire information about the US government's foreign policy and military plans, according to the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on China's military.

"China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the US diplomatic, economic, and defence industrial base sectors that support US national defence programs," reads the 83-page 2013 Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China report (PDF).

"In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military," the report said.

While US officials have raised such allegations before, the tenor of the charges has been steadily increasing in recent months. Monday's report, which uses the strongest language yet in directly linking the Chinese government and military to hacking activity directed at the US government, paints a picture of organisation and resourcefulness.

"China continues to leverage foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, academic exchanges, the experience of repatriated Chinese students and researchers, and state-sponsored industrial and technical espionage to increase the level of technologies and expertise available to support military research, development, and acquisition," the report said.

In March, the Obama administration demanded that China end its "unprecedented" campaign of cyber espionage, warning that the hacking activity threatens to derail efforts to build stronger ties between the two countries.

A recent report alleged that an "overwhelming percentage" of cyber attacks on US corporations, government agencies, and organisations originate from an office building that's connected to the People's Liberation Army on the outskirts of Shanghai. China has denied any involvement and condemned the report for lack of hard evidence.

After The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal earlier this year accused hackers in China of perpetrating months-long network breaches at the newspapers, a handful of companies revealed that they too have been victims of recent hackings, including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.


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