Obama's Cyber Dodge

White House cyber report won't focus on China

February 20, 2013

The Obama administration plan to counter massive cyber espionage from China will not focus on a single country, a White House official said.

The administration is set to release its "Strategy to Mitigate the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets" at a press conference of senior officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder.

"We know that trade secret theft can cripple a company’s competitive advantage in foreign markets, diminish export prospects around the globe, and put American jobs in jeopardy," the official said.

The strategy will be aimed at coordinating United States government efforts to "protect the innovation" behind the U.S. economy, the official said.

"This strategy is not focused on any one country nor is it focused on cybersecurity exclusively, though cyber does play an important role in the strategy," the official said.

Release of the White House strategy report comes amid mounting pressure on the administration to take action against China.

A private security firm revealed this week that a secret Chinese military unit near Shanghai is behind a worldwide campaign of cyber espionage that has stolen vast quantities of U.S. corporate data over at least six years.

"Our research and observations indicate that the Communist Party of China is tasking the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to commit systematic cyber espionage and data theft against organizations around the world," the report by the security firm Mandiant said.

The Mandiant report said China’s main military cyber espionage organization is the PLA’s 2nd Bureau of the General Staff Department’s 3rd Dept., code-named Unit 61398.

"The nature of Unit 61398’s work is considered by China to be a state secret; however, we believe it engages in harmful computer network operations," the report said.

The Shanghai cyber network has "systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations, and has demonstrated the capability and intent to steal from dozens of organizations simultaneously," the report said.

The cyberspy unit used well-defined computer network attack methods developed over years and, once it gained access over several months or years, stole broad categories of information. They include technology blueprints, proprietary manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, partnership agreements, and emails and contact lists from leaders within the victim organizations.

The Chinese cyber espionage unit was identified as a PLA unit that is "a single organization of operators that has conducted a cyber espionage campaign against a broad range of victims since at least 2006," the report said, adding that "it is one of the most prolific cyber espionage groups in terms of the sheer quantity of information stolen."