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China Responds to Free Beacon Report

Official claims PRC opposes cyberattacks

PLA Unit 61398 building, reportedly the site of origin for hacking attacks / AP
• November 8, 2013 4:15 pm

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China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday responded to a report in the Free Beacon revealing that the activities of a secret Chinese military cyber warfare unit are continuing despite disclosure of the activities by a private security company.

"The innocent is innocent," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a press conference in Beijing Nov. 7.

Hong commented on disclosures in the draft report of the U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission that stated China’s aggressive cyber espionage campaign through Unit 61398 of the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s Third Department was continuing.

"China is a victim of cyberattacks," Hong said. "The Chinese government always opposes hacker attacks and advocates international cooperation in jointly building a peaceful, secure, open, and cooperative cyberspace."

The spokesman then said disclosures of NSA spying by former contractor Edward Snowden should silence the U.S. government from criticizing Chinese cyber spying.

"Given the context of the ‘surveillance-gate’ incident, relevant U.S. agencies should stop trying to divert people's attention by talking about other affairs if they are really interested in cybersecurity," he said.

The draft commission report said the Shanghai-based military cyber group identified in February by private security group Mandiant temporarily curbed its large-scale cyber espionage campaign and then resumed it while taking measures to mask its activities.

"The Chinese government is directing and executing a large-scale cyber espionage campaign against the United States, and to date has successfully targeted the networks of U.S. government and private organizations, including those of DoD, defense contractors, and private firms," the report said.

"These activities are designed to achieve a number of broad economic and strategic objectives, such as gathering intelligence, providing Chinese firms with an advantage over its competitors worldwide, advancing long-term research and development objectives, and gaining information that could enable future military operations."

Unit 61398 slowed its activities after the U.S. government released a list of Internet Protocol addresses used by the Chinese cyber spies. Currently the unit is "as active as it was before Mandiant’s report was released," the report said.

The report recommends the U.S. government take a series of steps to sanction or punish China for cyber espionage. Estimates of the financial damage from China’s theft of trade secrets through cyber espionage range as high as $300 billion annually.

Chinese cyber spies also have attacked defense agencies and contractors in stealing valuable defense technology and secrets.

The cyber attacks are making U.S. weapons systems vulnerable to Chinese countermeasures.

"In addition, the same access Chinese cyber actors use for espionage also could be used to prepare for offensive cyber operations," the report said. "Chinese cyber actors could place latent capabilities in U.S. software code or hardware components that might be employed in a potential conflict between the United States and China."

Published under: China, NSA