In response to Mandiant Corp.’s 74-page report released on Monday that accused China’s People’s Liberation Army of stealing data from 115 U.S. companies since 2006, the Chinese government fired back on Tuesday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied the accusations and said, “Cyberattacks are anonymous and transnational, and it is hard to trace the origin of attacks, so I don’t know how the findings of the report are credible.”
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Hong also countered that China has been a cyberattack victim and said the U.S. is a top source for them. He added that China has also had virus attacks and its personal computers are controlled by foreign Internet companies.
The question had also been posed to Hong on whether it was China’s belief that the U.S. government was doing the attacks. He responded, “We can only say they originated in the U.S.” and added it was “entirely different from media reports that the Chinese government or the Chinese military are responsible” from the attacks discussed in Manidant’s report.
This came as China’s possible involvement in the hacker attacks has come under greater scrutiny. In the last few weeks, many news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have said Chinese hackers with government affiliations had accessed their sites. Many believe this could be the Chinese military.
In October, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a speech that China’s cyber capabilities were “rapidly growing” and added “In my visit to Beijing, I underscored the need to increase communication and transparency with each other so that we could avoid a misunderstanding or miscalculation in cyberspace.”
He also asked for increased information sharing for cybersecurity between private enterprise and the government.
In addition to Hong disputing Mandiant’s report, China’s Ministry of National Defense has disputed the allegations. It said in a statement on Tuesday via The Wall Street Journal, “The Chinese military has never supported any kinds of hacker activities, so saying that the Chinese military is involved in Internet attacks is neither professional nor consistent with the facts.”
The case for China’s involvement continues to gain momentum as Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) noted that in 2012’s third quarter, China was the world’s top source in traffic for observed attacks as it represented 33 percent of the traffic; this represented double the amount of 16 percent from the second quarter.
The U.S. came in second, increasing to 13 percent, up from 12 percent with Russia as No. 3, dropping to 4.7 percent from 6.3 percent.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Mandiant believes Unit 61398 is the group doing the hacking; it is part of the People’s Liberation Army. Since 2006, the report also disclosed that hacking attempts have taken place against almost 150 victims with hundreds of terabytes of data affected. Stolen information has included blueprints, proprietary processes details, pricing documents and contact lists.