Internet security experts believe “almost all” powerful institutions in the nation’s capital have been penetrated by Chinese “cyber-spies,” despite persistent denials by China about such activity.
The Chinese military has intruded into at least 141 organizations over seven years, stealing terabytes of data from each, according to a report released Tuesday by Mandiant, a U.S cybersecurity company.
Mandiant concludes in its analysis that that the group of cyber-espionage operators, which it labels APT 1 (APT for “advanced persistent threat”), “is likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors.”
The listing of major Washington institutions allegedly hacked in recent years includes government agencies, congressional offices, think tanks, news organizations, law firms, contractors, human rights groups, and foreign embassies.
No company is safe.
“There are only two categories of companies affected by the trade-secret theft,” said U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, “those that know they have been compromised and those that don't know it yet.”
“A single trade secret could be worth millions or even billions of dollars,” Holder said. “Trade secret theft can require companies to lay off employees, close factories, to lose sales and profits, to experience a decline in competitive position and advantage or even to go out of business”
Beijing’s defense and foreign ministries have strongly denied the claims. Chinese state media suggest that the allegations are part of a lobbying strategy aimed at prodding Congress to increase its defense budget and pass cyber security legislation.
China itself claims to be a target of hacking. The Chinese National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center published a report in August 2011, saying that in the eight months ending December 2011, 500,000 cyberattacks were aimed at computers in China and that at least 15 percent of those malware attacks originated in the United States.
The Chinese are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. Cyber spying represents a significant and growing threat to America’s prosperity. China is expected to remain the leading thief of American technology, and unless something dramatic is done, China may grow to become the world's most feared superpower. Our economic competitiveness, our secrets, and perhaps our very existence are at stake.