Pentagon Says China Behind Cyber Espionage On US

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

China denies US claims it was behind attacks on numerous nations in 2012

The US Department of Defense has attributed cyber espionage carried out on its infrastructure to China, claiming valuable state information was being targeted.

In a report on China, the Pentagon said the Asian superpower was collecting intelligence on US diplomatic, economic and defence industries, claiming numerous attacks in 2012 could be tied to China.

Chinese cyber espionage

China © Stephen Finn, Shutterstock 2012“The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China’s defence industry, high technology industries, policymaker interest in US leadership thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of US network defence networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis,” read the report, which is annually produced for Congress.

It warned cyber espionage could “serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks  during times of crisis or conflict”. The report claimed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) saw “electronic warfare” (EW) as a way to “reduce or eliminate US technological advantages”.

“PLA EW strategy focuses on radio, radar, optical, infrared, and microwave frequencies, in addition to adversarial computer and information systems.”

China has been critical of the report, with a military expert claiming it was irresponsible for the US to make such claims, given hacking was outlawed in the country.

Wang Xinjun, a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, told the state news agency Xinhua the “groundless accusations reflect the US distrust of China.”

“Although it is common sense that you cannot determine sources of cyber attacks only through IP addresses, some people in the Pentagon still prefer believing they are from China as they always bear a sense of rivalry,” Wang added.

China has repeatedly been blamed for cyber attacks, including those on critical US industries and large media organisations, such as the New York Times.

A report released by US security firm FireEye last month claimed most of the tools used in advanced, persistent attacks were made in China.

Another report from Verizon claimed China was behind 96 percent of cyber espionage campaigns the firm had seen over the last year, and it was likely the government sponsored 19 percent of all breaches it looked at.

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