The U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant, in a lengthy report that it released yesterday and crucial parts of which were confirmed by a New York Times investigation, traced an extensive cyber-espionage campaign back to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army. That Shanghai-based unit of the Chinese military, the report concluded, was almost certainly responsible for hacking a number of U.S. targets.
Now, China Digital Times has made an amazing discovery: Way back in 2004, People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 posted a recruitment notice at Zhejiang University's College of Computer Science and Technology. According the notice, which is still online, the military unit was offering scholarships to qualifying graduate students who would agree to join up after finishing school. It does not say what the new recruits would do at Unit 61398.
Zhejiang University is about 100 miles from Shanghai, where Mandiant pinpointed the possible location of Unit 61398. Here's the notice, translated into English by China Digital Times:
The Graduate School has received notice that Unit 61398 of China’s People’s Liberation Army (located in Pudong District, Shanghai) seeks to recruit 2003-class computer science graduate students. Students who sign the service contract will receive a 5,000 yuan per year National Defense Scholarship. After graduation, students will work in the unit.
Interested Zhejiang University 2003-class graduate students should please contact Teacher Peng in the Graduate Division before May 20. (Cao Guangbiao room 108; phone: 87952168)
May 13, 2004
And that was almost 10 years ago. Presumably, the unit's mission has changed at least somewhat since then, but it's an interesting hint about Unit 61398's history and the Chinese military's interest in cybersecurity.