back to article US authorities name five Chinese military hackers wanted for espionage

The US Department of Justice has named five members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army that, it claims, carried out an eight-year hacking campaign against some American companies to steal commercially sensitive information. "These represent the first ever charges against known state actors for infiltrating U.S. commercial …

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"This 21st century burglary has to stop," said David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

His statement was released the same day that this story broke.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-nsa-recording-every-cell-phone-call-bahamas/

The USA. Our surveillance is authorized by Congress (Mostly). Yours isn't, so it's illegal.

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The difference between China's and US' spying is purpose.

China steals TECH. It steals and copies technology. For instance, it's solar power and wind power industries are entirely built on stolen tech -- and any company complaining about it, gets locked out of China and its country suffers sanctions until it STFU.

Western spying is about state security, partly because China and Russia don't have any tech to steal, but mainly because the links between corporations and state are weaker, and patent legislation stronger.

It would appear the US is starting to get a bit tired of having it's tech stolen. Prosecuting a bunch of red army hackers is pointless, they'll never be allowed to leave China anyway, but it might be a prelude to import customs or sanctions against China.

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Anonymous Coward

"Western spying is about state security"

Yes, so they say. But given that US officials have lied about their spying activities and ever perjured themselves in sworn public testimony, should we believe them when they say it's only about "national security"? Who owns the US government, after all? It's sure not "we the people".

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h3

It is the same.

There is no difference between what China is doing now to the USA and what the USA did to Britain when it was first formed.

Cannot imagine the British at the time found it very funny but however at the moment I do find it hilarious.

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Anonymous Coward

US spying is also about sealing tech and favouring US companies

@Vociferous: give me a break there are numerous example where the US spied on western europeans allies to favour their own industry (military, telco, etc) at the expense of their "allies". Here, it seems they get a bit upset because they are up against someone better than them.

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Anonymous Coward

No difference, just hypocrisy

http://www.globalresearch.ca/nsa-busted-conducting-industrial-espionage-in-france-mexico-brazil-china-and-all-around-the-world/5355026

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<snip>

"Western spying is about state security, partly because China and Russia don't have any tech to steal, but mainly because the links between corporations and state are weaker, and patent legislation stronger."

<snip>

Actually that is no longer true although it was generally the case. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism in general a lot of these agencies had to reinvent themselves pretty sharpish so they could retain staff and budgets. Their eyes were focused on business when Al Quaeda snuck under the radar and shouted boo. Since then they have refocused on whatever threat is deemed as being the cash generator 'de jour' but do not think that their economic desks are not live and kicking.

China and Russia have a plethora of tech to steal, but it is not always about tech!

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Title

"For the first time, we are exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards in Shanghai used to steal from American businesses"

Presumably by using the same methods to obtain that information that they are complaining about others using? Weakens the case somewhat IMHO.

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@Vociferous

Didn't France look at suing the countries who run Echelon back in 2000 accusing them of using it for financial gain, mainly to do with the awarding of some aircraft manufacturing contracts.

Hardly sounds like it was national security.

Anyway what do you define as national security? Semantically I am pretty sure I could argue making the country number 1 economically is absolutely vital to the security of the country.

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Headmaster

Re: US "a bit upset because they are up against someone better than them"

I really don't think the Chinese are better at industrial espionage, but they are accused of being a bit wholesale in their approach. I have nothing but respect for the US capability in that field, but I don't think they include it in their normal business plans.

The Chinese government has an admirable appetite for technical knowledge and the dissemination of such around their industries and universities; apparantly the some people think they are using some illegal methds of data gathering alongside their normal methods.

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Anonymous Coward

US sec is to make the world safe for US corporations

China sec directly steals for China corporations, so its more guerilla economic warfare, while US security is more like a reality distortion field, intended to make profits evaporate globally and condense on Wall St. China is playing the Wall St game, listing its incredibly profitable bona fide companies like Alibaba, and not listing its dirty companies like Qunlei. But these valuations are nothing compared to what the ruling families (Red Dukes) can steal from the economy , kleptocracy rulez.

Some estimate that the top 1% of the communist party has stolen half the money in China, so both sides want this gig to continue.

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That's one for each eye

Type your comment here

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"This is a tactic that the US government categorically denounces."

Pot, meet kettle

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Anonymous Coward

Just a terrible idea

Blatant hypocrisy aside, this would seem to open up many, many NSA workers to similar charges by China and other nations.

Can of worms: check

Freshly opened: check

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Re: Just a terrible idea

The effects are slightly more asymmetric.

NSA employees not allowed visas to visit China - big fat meh

Employees of Chinese companies with government links (ie all of them) not allowed US visas, so difficultto visit South American countries or Canada.

US citizens not allowed to do business with these companies, US companies not allowed to do business with companies that do business with these companies etc etc.

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Anonymous Coward

The USA is saying that it spies on other nations for security purposes - What is <insert nation> nuclear arsenal, what are <insert nation> plans about <insert issue>, does <insert company> have ties with <insert person or nation>, etc.

The USA claims it does not steal company secrets to give US companies an economic edge, which is what the Chinese do. I guess the USA leaves stealing trade secrets to their sweater vest wearing thugs in the GCHQ

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Re: Just a terrible idea

Most spies aren't the spies most people imagine spies to be. They are CAD draftsmen or scientists or engineers or visiting scholars or businessmen. You would, I suspect, be surprised at how many of those people get deported from countries all the time.

Visas expire because the project they were working on loses funding or they get misidentified as the perpetrator of a violent, but not deadly, crime. Previously undiscovered errors on visa applications suddenly come to light or they are implicated in misdeeds on the soil of an allied nation.

It doesn't really matter how they dress it up. Normal people are in one place today, gone to another place the next, because they are believed to be spies or patsies for spies.

There are rarely any repercussions, except an equal number of spies from your country will suffer one of the symptoms listed above and be sent home. Weapons tech will get people in real trouble, but if it's just good old fashioned industrial espionage everybody does their little dance and ship out the same number of different spies to the place that just booted them out.

Spying is a game all countries participate in. It's all quite formalized and (boringly) extremely not-Bond like.The prize for catching a spy is nothing, if you don't want to hand out prizes when your spies get caught (which is guaranteed to happen). In extreme cases, spying results in modifications to trade agreements and lowered interest rates from State sponsored banks. The Snowden case was fairly extreme, but now the trade arrangements have been made and it's all over. Situation normal, all fucked up.

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Spot on

"US citizens not allowed to do business with these companies, US companies not allowed to do business with companies that do business with these companies etc etc."

And US companies lose global business to Chinese, Indian and European competitors, US companies have to increasingly rely on domestic sales, US companies implode, world moves on.

Not good for anyone, but particularly bad for the ordinary American.

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Re: Just a terrible idea

"Most spies aren't the spies most people imagine spies to be."

<snip>

Well said that man.

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Facepalm

Re: Just a terrible idea (re: Yet Another Anonymous coward)

What if David Snowden has a list of every NSA employee covering the last 30 years?

When the U.S. wants to arrest a non-us citizen, like that guy from North Korea (see KrebsOnSecurity,) the U.S. enticed him to travel to Guam because the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Guam. What if other countries start playing by the U.S.'s rules?

Dig faster, boys, they're catching us...

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The last time the US confronted China on spying, they brought out Snowden.

What are they going to use to deflect US criticism this time?

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Paris Hilton

Re: The last time the US confronted China on spying, they brought out Snowden.

Not sure whether you should get your head examined or whether you are getting paid to write such drivel?

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Re: The last time the US confronted China on spying, they brought out Snowden.

Yeah, I'm sure it was just a coincidence that Snowden fled to China and started leaking just as the US was gearing up to confront China over its spying.

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Re: The last time the US confronted China on spying, they brought out Snowden.

To be fair, the Snowden affair was probably a great thing for China. I do think the timing was coincidental, but hey! Why not take advantage of the gift you've been given.

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Re: The last time the US confronted China on spying, they brought out Snowden.

Nothing "probably" about it. It saved China's ass. And they're going to pull something similar again this time.

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Silver badge

US Law Rules the World (Not)

The US has every right to be aggrieved, but it does not have the right to impose its laws on the rest of us.

Had those Chinese individuals done their deeds within the US, they would undoubtedly be found guilty and duly tried. If China were a civilised state, those people would be found guilty in China and duly prosecuted.

But the US and China are not at peace, though nor are they fully at war. International law, in its old sense of what is right and proper between self-governing polities, therefore is undefined.There is no case for the US pretending it can extradite in this matter.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

> There is no case for the US pretending it can extradite in this matter.

The US doesn't think it can extradite those responsible. Every time the US would point the finger at the Chinese for hacking US companies the Chinese government would say "prove it". So the US publicly provided the facts to see what the Chinese leadership would do, as well as tying juicy steaks (to attract blood thirsty journalists) around the necks of five, now famous, people. Its all just a small move in the big game of politics.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

Any country that has trade agreements with the US gives the US the right to request extradition of any citizen of that nation to stand trial for, alleged, crimes committed against the US or its interests. The only exception to that is if the other party has a 100% nobody gets extradited anywhere, for any reason policy. China is not an exception, they signed off on the deal, the US can request the extradition of Chinese Citizens.

But a really cool part of being a country is that you get to pick and choose how aggressively you want to pursue those obligations. Overall, this is nothing more than diplomacy at work. The US is naming names to show they've slipped inside China's defenses. None of it really means anything. Serious diplomacy isn't done in public.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

"There is no case for the US pretending it can extradite in this matter."

When did that ever stop them?

*cough* extra-legal rendition *cough*

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

Why the downvotes? That's the way the world works. I didn't invent the rules you know.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

<snip>

"But a really cool part of being a country is that you get to pick and choose how aggressively you want to pursue those obligations. Overall, this is nothing more than diplomacy at work. The US is naming names to show they've slipped inside China's defenses. None of it really means anything. Serious diplomacy isn't done in public."

I would agree that a lot of this public malarkey is just smoke and mirrors. As we know politicians and diplomats will consort with and negotiate with their mortal enemies. Public statements mean nothing and are generally to feed the populace and keep them happy.

Now if I was China I would publish a bigger list, consisting of Fort Meade personnel (NSA by and large) and other agencies involved in economic warefare on China. Then we could have a nice little war of naming and shaming to the greater benefit of us plebs.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

Ah. I should have read all of the comments before I so commented.

One thing, I think, you forgot to add was "....and issue international arrest warrants for them, all."

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Joke

Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

Had those Chinese individuals done their deeds within the US, they would undoubtedly be found guilty and duly tried...

...in that order.

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Re: US Law Rules the World (Not)

" If China were a civilised state, those people would be found guilty in China and duly prosecuted."

First, China is, and for about 4000 years has been, a civilised state by whatever were the contemporary standards of civilisation.

Second, the accused are Chinese military personnel and rather unlikely to be tried under Chinese law for acts that probably were no more illegal there than Five Eyes foreign intelligence activity is under applicable laws in Australia, Canada, NewU Zealand, UK, and US. This is little more than a public shaming effort.

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Horses Gone...

Why don't those companies hire security specialists before they are hacked? At least put a lock on the front door.

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Re: Horses Gone...

Many of them have security specialists. It's harder to stop state-sanctioned spying than you think. China has several thousand hackers working full time stealing tech, and they're not bad.

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Re: Horses Gone...

If I want to secure my house physically I know or can easily find out what materials to use to do a proper job. If I fit a bloody great steel front door and reinforce the walls, floor, roof and windows I can be pretty sure I will be able to keep out most efforts to break in. OK my locks will need to be good and so on but physical security is generally possible to a reasonable level.

IT security is laughable. There are bugs (unintentional or otherwise) and back doors to contend with. On top of that it turns out that our own security services maintain silence when they discover snags so that they can use them for their own ends, which would be fine but criminal orgs are getting rather good at this game as well and they ARE interested in me as a target.

On top of that the entire fucking internet connected world can have a crack at me whenever they like.

The best I can manage is a bit like my house is now - a lock on the front door that a lock smith could get through in a few minutes and with glass windows that wont take much effort with a hammer and nail.

Hmmm, at least the whole world are unlikely to have a bash at my home though.

Cheers

Jon

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Pot...meet Kettle.

Kettle...meet pot.

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This is exactly why Keith Alexander's Frankenzilla a.k.a. the NSA put everybody at risk...

...because now an otherwise honest move like pushing charges against these scumbags became nothing more than a practical joke when US-based crooks (some are even uniformed, see ret. Gen Alexander) are doing much worse and even at home, against Americans, without any reason.

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Silver badge

Retaliation will start in 5 minutes....

All the crap swirling around and about NSA, GCHQ, etc... and the government goes and pulls this???? Yep.. I think we're all waiting for the retaliation and political BS to follow. After Cisco's letter to the POTUS, I suspect they may end being collateral damage.

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Re: Retaliation will start in 5 minutes....

Interesting that there's downvotes on this. The news today states that Chinese have their knickers in a twist

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Here's a pretty good take what this is all about.

Jobs.

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Facepalm

Re: Here's a pretty good take what this is all about.

One word: jobs. Cyber-espionage costs U.S. companies around $100 billion every year, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Yeah well, I can make up about 5 farty statistics before breakfast, too.

I wonder why "jobs" are not being talked about when the Chinese are financing the US by buying shitty treasuries while bleeding themselves dry exporting goods they had better make for their internal market?

Political arguing, I guess. Soundbites, stupidity and talking points.

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Anonymous Coward

What about Hawke, Rudd selling secrets?

Australian politicians on the right such as Hockey and Huawei shill Downer , too.

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Anonymous Coward

That would be the same Eric Holder...

...who is dodging responsibility to investigate the perjury of SIGINT majordomo Gen. Clapper?

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/eric-holder-james-clapper-testimony-105478.html

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Why?

That there is state-sponsored spying on US companies by Chinese nationals I can understand. (Equally so the reverse.) That the US are able to identify those individuals I can also understand.

What I can't understand is why these people have actually been named openly.

The US knows the Chinese are spying and China knows the US knows - and vice-versa. I just can't see what is gained by making this kind of inside knowledge public.

Perhaps it's for the US public but surely they'd have to really follow-through for this to have any solid effect at home.

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Big Brother

Re: Why?

Yes, it's for the PR. Makes it more concrete in the public mind. Any Senator or pundit can emphasise, "and they STILL haven't extradited Wen, Wang, Sun, Huang and Gu". Can you specify any secret economic data stolen in the Bermudan phone calls, or name the people who stole them? No? Then it's all theoretical.

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Re: Why?

> What I can't understand is why these people have actually been named openly.

To publicly embarrass China. This is the US saying "we physically penetrated your defenses and took photos of your operatives without you knowing, now you'll have to guess how we did it, what else we did -- and what we left behind."

To a degree it might be payback for Snowden, which was China publicly embarrassing the US and saying "back off, big guy, we have plenty of moles like this right in the heart of your organization".

In the short term the effect will be harassment of US companies in China, in the slighter longer term either a decrease in Chinese spying, or US import customs/sanctions against Chinese goods.

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Re: Why?

@Vociferous

Really?

I asked the question so I'm not having a go at you but that just doesn't seem so likely to me. Perhaps I am mistaken but I was under the impression that this type of spying has been going on for ever and is all very common and so, at least in for those in the know, pretty banal.

I mean, the US has been spying in just this way (and every other) on China (and every other country) for a very long time.

The 'public shaming' theory, while certainly possible, would imply that identifying these breaches is somehow special and so needs to be taken advantage of. To me, that seems somewhat unlikely, given the massive breadth of scope of the spying conducted by these countries and the length of time they have been doing it.

In short, the longer and broader a spying program, the more frequently people will be 'caught' spying and therefore the less exceptional this will be.

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The PRC has a point

"...in the indictment and said the US move was "a serious violation of the basic norms of international relations.""

That is quite true. *Normally*, when one nation attacks military assets of another country, as the PRC has repeatedly done for far longer than the NSA has been, war is declared.

So, it really comes down to if the PRC really wants to play that game with another nuclear armed nation.

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