Chinese report accuses U.S. of ‘unscrupulous’ cybersnooping


Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that a U.S. grand jury has charged five Chinese hackers with economic espionage and trade secret theft, the first-of-its-kind criminal charges against Chinese military officials in an international cyber-espionage case. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

A new report from the China Academy of Cyber Space alleges the U.S. government engages in "unscrupulous" cyber surveillance, including hacks on Chinese agencies and businesses.

Entitled "America's Global Surveillance Record," the publication was released just a week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal hacking charges against five members of the Chinese military for alleged commercial cyber espionage, including the theft of technical trade secrets and strategic intelligence from companies such as Westinghouse Electric and U.S. Steel.

The English language site for state Chinese media outlet CCTV broadcast the new report under a headline claiming the country was the "biggest victim of cyber espionage." "The Foreign Ministry has been a major victim of US cyber spying," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs counselor Zhou Jingxing told CCTV, saying that his agency  felt "very insecure" due to an onslaught  of suspicious e-mails, server breakdowns, and other information technology issues.

According to Reuters, the report cites foreign media coverage of documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showing spying against the Chinese. In March, the New York Times reported, based on documents from Snowden, that the NSA breached the networks of Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei, which is cited in the Chinese report as a victim of U.S. cyber-aggression.

Last week's indictments from DOJ marked the first time the U.S. government has pursued criminal hacking charges against the agents of a foreign government, U.S. officials said during the press conference announcing the charges, although they also suggested that such action was the "new normal."

The Chinese government expressed outrage over the charges against its employees, saying the indictments were based on "fabricated facts" and backing out of a joint symposium with the U.S. government originally created to address commercial cyber espionage.

"For a long time, it has been obvious that the relevant U.S. departments have been carrying out large-scale, organized cybertheft and cyber-surveillance on foreign dignitaries, corporations and individuals," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement. "China is the victim of U.S. cybertheft and cyber-surveillance.”

During the earlier press conference announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that "all nations are engaged in intelligence gathering."

"What I think distinguishes this case is that we have a state-sponsored entity, state-sponsored individuals using intelligence tools to gain commercial advantage," he said.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Andrea Peterson · May 27