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Chinese military behind hacking attacks: US firm

world Updated: Feb 20, 2013 00:21 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, the largest standing armed forces in the world, is also a prolific hacker, a internet security firm has claimed.

The firm, Mandiant said its hundreds of investigations over the past three years showed that groups hacking into US newspapers, government agencies, and companies were “based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them.”

The report focused on one group, which it called “APT1” from the initials - Advanced Persistent Threat - which it claimed had stolen huge quantities of information and was targeting critical infrastructure such as the US energy grid.

The cyberattacks, according to the firm, was traced to an anonymous building in Shanghai.

“It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating from China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat the threat effectively. The issue of attribution has always been a missing link in the public’s understanding of the landscape of APT cyber espionage,” the group said in a statement published on its website.

It added: “Without establishing a solid connection to China, there will always be room for observers to dismiss APT actions as uncoordinated, solely criminal in nature, or peripheral to larger national security and global economic concerns.”

“We believe that APT1 is able to wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign in large part because it receives direct government support,” Mandiant said.

China dismissed the allegations. “Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous. Determining their origins is extremely difficult. We don't know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable,” Hong Lei, foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

“Arbitrary criticism based on rudimentary data is irresponsible, unprofessional and not helpful in resolving the issue.”

Citing a Chinese study, Hong said it pointed to the United States as being behind hacking in China. “Of the above mentioned Internet hacking attacks, attacks originating from the United States rank first.”