What China's 'Unit 61398' Allegedly Stole

US is 'China's biggest cyberattacker,' Beijing says in retaliation

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 20, 2014 4:15 AM CDT | Updated May 20, 2014 7:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Eric Holder described the cybercrimes charges against five Chinese military officers as a "wake-up call" and China is certainly paying attention: Government officials have summoned the US ambassador in Beijing, suspended a cybersecurity agreement made with the US last month, and denounced the charges as an "absurd" move that has "severely damaged mutual trust," reports the BBC, which notes that it is "extremely unlikely" that any of the accused will ever be sent to the US to face charges. The government's Internet information agency was also quoted as saying, "The US is the biggest attacker of China's cyberspace." More:

  • Federal officials say the five people charged, all members of the Chinese military's secretive Unit 61398, were part of a hacking campaign that gave Chinese industries an advantage at the expense of American firms, reports the Huffington Post.
  • They allegedly used screen names like "UglyGorilla" and "KandyGoo" as they tricked their way into computer networks. How they reportedly tried to gain access in many cases: by sending "spearfishing" messages that appeared to come from "trustworthy senders."
  • According to the indictment, the targeted entities included Westinghouse Electric Co., US Steel Corp., the United Steelworkers Union, and SolarWorld, the AP reports. The hackers are accused of stealing proprietary information including design specifications for Westinghouse pipes and pricing and strategy information from SolarWorld. In the case of the latter company, the indictment claims the hackers stole thousands of email and attachments during a period in which SolarWorld was "an active litigant in trade cases against Chinese solar manufacturers."
  • Officials say that beyond Unit 61398, the NSA and other agencies are tracking at least 20 other Chinese hacking groups targeting the American government and US industries. "If you look at all the groups that we track in China, this is just the very tip of the iceberg," a co-founder of security firm Crowdstrike tells the New York Times. "The indictments are just one piece of a broader puzzle."

The building housing Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai.   (AP Photo)
A wanted poster is displayed at the Justice Department in Washington after the charges were filed.   (AP Photo)
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