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Chinese Military Trying to Hack U.S. Business, Attorney General Claims

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | May 20, 2014 11:21 AM EST

The Chinese military is trying to hack several U.S. entities and business such as Allegheny Technologies, Alcoa, Westinghouse, the United Steel Workers Union, SolarWorld and U.S. Steel Corp., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed on Monday, May 19. The Justice Department released the names of the five people suspected of being involved in the hacking: Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui.

REUTERS/Keith Lane
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) announces the indictments of five Chinese nationals on cyber espionage charges for allegedly stealing trade secrets from American companies, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington May 19, 2014. The indictments mark the toughest action Washington has taken to date to show concerns about hacking coming from China.

Mr Holder said that a grand jury had returned an indictment against five individuals of the Chinese military, accusing them of hacking to spy and steal secrets. Those who became victims of the hacking are from Pennsylvania. According to the indictment, People's Liberation Army officers "maintained unauthorized access to victim computers to steal information from these entities that would be useful" to the victims' Chinese competitors, CNN reported.

There were some cases when Chinese hackers stole trade secrets which could be "particularly beneficial to Chinese companies at the time that they were stolen," the attorney general said. CNN further reported that there were some other instances when the hackers swiped sensitive internal communications that could provide a competitor or a litigation adversary with insight into the strategy and the vulnerabilities of the victimized companies and entities. Holder said that the accused had "targeted the U.S. private sector for commercial advantage."

Holder said that the Chinese government was expected to work with U.S. officials to take legal actions against the offenders. He said that the U.S. government would want to prosecute the alleged hackers in a U.S. courtroom. However, it may be highly improbable that the five accused would ever appear for trial at a U.S. court. When CNN tried contacting the Chinese embassy in Washington through emails and phone calls, there was no immediate reply.

It was rare for the United States to charge foreign government employees with economic espionage, the New York Times reported. The move apparently increased the political tension between officials from China and the United States. They have already accused each other of cyber-attacks as well as of hacking.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Keith Lane / )
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) announces the indictments of five Chinese nationals on cyber espionage charges for allegedly stealing trade secrets from American companies, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington May 19, 2014. The indictments mark the toughest action Washington has taken to date to show concerns about hacking coming from China.
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