China denies ‘slanderous’ economic espionage charges from U.S., allies
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it resolutely opposed “slanderous” accusations from the United States and other allies criticizing China for economic espionage, urging Washington to withdraw its accusations.
The United States should also withdraw charges against two Chinese citizens, the ministry said, adding that China had never participated in or supported any stealing of commercial secrets and had lodged “stern representations” with Washington.
“We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its erroneous actions and cease its slanderous smears relating to internet security,” it said, adding that it would take necessary measures to safeguard its own cybersecurity and interests.
It has long been an “open secret” that U.S. government agencies have hacked into and listening in on foreign governments, companies and individuals, the ministry added.
“The U.S. side making unwarranted criticisms of China in the name of so-called ‘cyber stealing’ is blaming others while oneself is to be blamed, and is self-deception. China absolutely cannot accept this.”
U.S. prosecutors indicted two Chinese nationals linked to China’s Ministry of State Security intelligence agency on charges of stealing confidential data from American government agencies and businesses around the world.
Prosecutors charged Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong in hacking attacks against the U.S. Navy, the space agency NASA and the Energy Department and dozens of companies. The operation targeted intellectual property and corporate secrets to give Chinese companies an unfair competitive advantage, they said.
The pair were members of a hacking group known within the cyber security community as APT 10 and also worked for a Tianjin company Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Co, prosecutors said.
Reuters was unable to locate immediately contact details for Zhu or Zhang.
Britain, Australia and New Zealand joined the United States in slamming China over what they called a global campaign of cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft, signaling growing global coordination against the practice.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Britain and other countries had also made “slanderous comments” stemming from “ulterior motives”.
Five sources familiar with the attacks told Reuters the hackers breached the networks of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE.N) and IBM, then used the access to hack into their clients’ computers. IBM said it had no evidence that sensitive data had been compromised. HPE said it could not comment.
“No country poses a broader, more severe long-term threat to our nation’s economy and cyber infrastructure than China,” FBI Director Chris Wray said at a news conference. “China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower, and they’re using illegal methods to get there.”
China-U.S. ties in recent months have also been affected by a protracted trade war, though there is currently a truce as both countries try and work out a resolution.
Adding to the tensions, on Thursday China denounced a new U.S. law related to Tibet.
The official China Daily wrote in an editorial on Friday that this added an “additional flashpoint” to already rocky relations.
“With Washington favoring a confrontational approach aimed at maintaining its hegemony rather than a cooperative one for the common good, Beijing will have to be prepared to stand its ground and respond as necessary to safeguard its core interests.”
The Australian foreign affairs and home affairs departments said in a statement that APT 10 was engaged in “sustained cyber intrusions” on large managed service providers, or information technology contractors globally.
“Australia calls on all countries, including China, to uphold commitments to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining a competitive advantage,” the joint statement said.
An Australian government source said the Chinese had breached “a small number” of targets but the extent of the attack was unclear.
“We may never know how many companies were impacted,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the attacks. “We’ve informed those caught up but we need others to make urgent checks.”
Nick Savvides, chief technology officer for cybersecurity provider Symantec Corp in Asia Pacific, said in an email that cyber espionage had become “overt in recent years”.
“Attackers are getting clever, hiding in plain sight by using tools and techniques already installed on targeted computers, making them difficult to detect,” he added in the email which did not mention China.
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