Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday it resolutely opposed “slanderous” allegations from the United States (US) and other allies censuring China for economic espionage, demanding Washington to take back its allegations.
The US should also retract charges against two Chinese citizens, the ministry stated, adding that China had never taken an interest in or upheld any stealing of business secrets and had lodged “stern representations” with Washington.
“We urge the US side to immediately correct its erroneous actions and cease its slanderous smears relating to internet security,” it said, adding that it would take necessary actions to defend its own cybersecurity and interests.
It has long been an “open secret” that US government agencies have hacked into and listened in on foreign governments, corporations and individuals, the ministry added.
“The US 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.”
US prosecutors charged two Chinese citizens connected to China’s Ministry of State Security intelligence agency on charges of stealing private data from US government agencies and companies around the world.
Prosecutors charged Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong in hacking attacks against the US Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Energy Department, and several corporations.
The operation targeted intellectual property and corporate secrets to give Chinese corporations an unfair competitive advantage, they said.
The pair was members of a hacking group known in the cyber security community as APT 10 and also worked for a Tianjin company Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Co, according to the prosecutors.
Contact details for Zhu or Zhang was not immediately located.
The US, along with Britain, Australia, and New Zealand has slammed China over what they called a worldwide campaign of cyber-authorized commercial intellectual property stealing, suggesting growing worldwide coordination against the action.
China’s Foreign Ministry stated that Britain as well as other nations had also made “slanderous remarks” stemming from “ulterior motives”.
Five sources familiar with the hacking incidents said the hackers broke into the networks of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and IBM, then used the access to hack into their customers’ computers.
There was no proof of sensitive data being compromised, according to IBM, while HPE did not comment on the matter.
“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. “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. bonds in current months have also been affected by a protracted trade war, although there is presently a ceasefire as both nations try and work out a resolution.
An editorial piece from a Chinese newspaper on Friday stated that this added an “extra 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 APT 10 was engaged in “sustained cyber intrusions” on big managed service providers (MSPs), or information technology contractors worldwide.
“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 break into “a small number” of targets but the scope of the attack was not determined.
“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 current 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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