U.S. Charges 5 Chinese Officials of Cyberspying on Companies

US China Hacking
Jacquelyn Martin/APU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
By Aruna Viswanatha
and Jim Finkle

WASHINGTON and BOSTON -- A U.S. grand jury has indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking American companies and stealing trade secrets, the toughest action taken by Washington so far to address cyberspying by China.

China denied the charges, saying they were "made up" and would damage trust between the two nations. The Chinese foreign ministry said it would suspend the activities of the Sino-U.S. Internet working group.

The indictments mark the first time the United States has filed charges against specific officials of foreign governments, accusing them of corporate cyberspying.

"When a foreign nation uses military or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say, 'enough is enough,' " U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference.

The suspects targeted companies in the Pittsburgh area in the nuclear power, metal and solar product industries. The companies included Alcoa (AA), Allegheny Technologies (ATI), United States Steel (X), Westinghouse Electric, U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld and a steel workers union, Department of Justice officials said.

The move "indicates that DOJ has 'smoking keyboards' and [is] willing to bring the evidence to a court of law and be more transparent," said Frank Cilluffo, head of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at the George Washington University.

American businesses have long urged the government to take action about cyberespionage from abroad, particularly by China.

Secret U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks traced major systems breaches to China, Reuters reported in 2011. One 2009 cable pinpointed attacks to a specific unit of China's People's Liberation Army.

Skeptics noted that U.S. authorities wouldn't be able to arrest those indicted as Beijing wouldn't hand them over. Still, the move would prevent the individuals from traveling to the United States or other countries that have an extradition agreement with the United States.

"It won't slow China down," said Eric Johnson, dean of the business school at Vanderbilt University and an expert on cybersecurity issues.

Experts said the indictments would have some impact on those accused of hacking U.S. companies.

Stewart Baker, a former NSA attorney, said the hackers named in the indictments might have trouble getting jobs in China's private sector when they move on from employment with the People's Liberation Army.

"In the long run, it could even hurt your employability in China, because U.S. government is going to look askance at Chinese firms that hire former cyberspies," said Baker, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson.

-Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bernadette Baum.

U.S. Government: 'China Cited in Cyber-Spying Case'

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And the NSA didn't do anything to China?

May 20 2014 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We all know much of the world's electronic communications pass through the U.S., because electronic communications data tend to follow the least expensive route rather than the most physically direct route, and the bulk of the world's Internet infrastructure is based in the United States. They reserved backdoors!

May 20 2014 at 4:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

U.S. has controlled most of the infrastructure of server and router, they can easilly steal and spy your material, they hack over the world

May 20 2014 at 4:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best hackers are from America. How can Chinese steal the U.S.technology through cyber-espionage?

May 20 2014 at 4:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No charges yet on his Fast and Furious program!

May 19 2014 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply