US AUTHORITIES announced charges against Chinese military officers for cyber-espionage yesterday, the first hacking case that has ever been laid against individuals working for the country’s government.
The men are accused of industrial espionage for the purpose of gaining a commercial advantage. Yesterday, assistant US attorney general John Carlin said: “We allege that members of unit 61398 conspired to hack into computers of six US victims to steal information that would provide an economic advantage to the victims’ competitors, including Chinese state-owned enterprises.”
An indictment issued by the department referenced Chinese army officers Gu Chunhui, Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu and Huang Zhenyu. One of the accused is known to use the alias “Ugly Gorilla” online. The men are members of a military arm called unit 61398.
“In the past, when we brought concerns such as these to Chinese government officials, they responded by publicly challenging us to provide hard evidence of their hacking that could stand up in court. Well today, we are,” added Carlin.
The justice department says it has evidence that the accused individuals stole trade secrets on specific days, the first time a solid case has been presented for accusations that have been mentioned previously.
Firms like SolarWorld which have competed with Chinese challengers were attacked, and others like Westinghouse which have had dealings with Chinese state firms were also targeted.
US Steel, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies and the US Steelworkers Union were all named as other groups that have been victims of the hacking espionage.
Last year, the Chinese government denied that the unit named by the justice department was involved in cyber-espionage. A data security firm called Mandiant named the group in a report, and said that attacks were also made on firms in the UK.