US is to launch unprecedented counter-attack on Chinese hackers accused of stealing state secrets

 

The US Government is to launch an unprecedented counter-attack on the individual Chinese hackers who are accused of stealing the country’s state and industrial secrets.

A series of personal attacks on Chinese hackers is to be launched, with the US naming perpetrators and bringing lawsuits and fines.

The move follows on from the announcement yesterday by the computer security company Mandiant that it had discovered a unit of the Chinese Army based in Shanghai that it claims has stolen hundreds of terrabytes of information from 140 US firms.

The American action marks a growing exasperation with Beijing, following 10 years of officials warnings from Western governments that the wholesale theft of defence secrets, and valuable business information was being carried out by Chinese hackers.

The US exasperation has been felt in the UK, where the Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that Western powers are suffering unprecedented levels of cyber theft due to espionage. He fell shy of naming the Chinese but officials behind the scenes left journalists in no doubt that the Chinese were to blame.

News of the stiffening of attitude has come at the same time as a significant diplomatic escalation over the issue, with President Obama flagging up the cyber threat in his State of the Union address and particularly focusing in on the threat to the computerised systems that control the critical national infrastructure, systems such as electricity, gas and telecommunications, all it has been claimed the target of Chinese hackers.

The US announcement also signals one other important change, that the cyber security industry is now confident that it can identify those who are carrying out the attacks.

Up until now attribution has been a difficulty and many times over the past 10 years countries identified as being responsible for cyber crime have claimed that the attacks are simply being routed through their countries but are not actually originating from there.

According to Howard Schmidt, who was President Obama’s cyber security tsar until last Summer, the US response means that a line has been drawn in the sand.

“Since 2010 there has been report after report after report, effectively saying the same thing… but it doesn’t seem to dissuade those responsible and I am pretty sure a lot of this is coming from the Chinese Government, though some will also be coming from other groups. But it doesn’t seem to convince them that they should stop.

“The reason for that seems to be that they have so much more to gain from doing this than they have to lose.”

News of the US loss of patience has coincided with a series of signs that indicate that an international consensus on cyber crime is beginning to emerge, with Russia’s President Putin recently announcing that Russia would start moves to crack down on cyber crime.

According to sources in the intelligence and cyber worlds the release of the Mandiant report has been deliberately time to coincide with the US Government announcement of a crackdown on those attacking it.

Rumours of the US response have been circulating in the UK, well in advance of David Cameron’s announcement that the UK would be seeking to co-operate with India to build cyber centres of excellence and indicate an attempt to generate a united front against the Chinese in the light of the hacking activity claimed by Mandiant.

“It’s been going on for a while and it’s a massive response,” said one source, who declined to be named.

The Chinese have denied the Mandiant claims.

In a statement, the Chinese Defence Ministry said the report lacked “technical proof” when it used IP addresses to link hacking to a military unit, adding that many hacking attacks were carried out using hijacked IP addresses.

American exasperation was signalled by Senator Mike Rogers at the opening of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s hearing on cyber threats two years ago.

“China’s economic espionage has reached an intolerable level and I believe that the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have an obligation to confront Beijing and demand that they put a stop to this piracy.

“Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all, and we should band together to pressure them to stop. Combined, the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have significant diplomatic and economic leverage over China, and we should use this to our advantage to put an end to this scourge.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £38,000

£22000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role is a mixture of office...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

£17100 - £20900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests