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Cyberattacks linked to Chinese military

U.S. security firm compiles evidence

  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

    The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday. According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

    The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday. According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

    The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday. According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)
  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)
  • The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday.  According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)

Cyberattacks that stole massive amounts of information from military contractors, energy companies and other key industries in the United States and elsewhere have been traced to a Chinese military unit, a U.S. security firm alleged yesterday.

China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “groundless,” and the Defense Ministry denied any involvement in hacking attacks.

China has frequently been accused of hacking, but the report by Virginia-based Mandiant Corp. contains some of the most extensive and detailed accusations to date linking its military to a wave of cyberspying against U.S. and other foreign companies and government agencies.

Mandiant said it traced the hacking back to a neighborhood in the outskirts of Shanghai that includes a drab, white 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army.

The unit “has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations,” Mandiant wrote. By comparison, the U.S. Library of Congress 2006-2010 Twitter archive of about 170 billion tweets totals 133.2 terabytes.

“From our observations, it is one of the most prolific cyberespionage groups in terms of the sheer quantity of information stolen,” the company said. It said the unit has been in operation since at least 2006.

Mandiant said it decided that revealing the results of its investigation was worth the risk of the hackers changing their tactics and becoming even more difficult to trace.

“It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat that threat effectively,” it said.

In a statement faxed to The Associated Press, the Defense Ministry firmly rejected any involvement in hacking, saying Chinese law forbids all activities harming internet security.

“The Chinese government has always firmly combated such activities and the Chinese military has never supported any form of hacking activity,” the ministry said. “Statements to the effect that the Chinese military takes part in internet attacks are unprofessional and are not in accordance with the facts.”

Mandiant’s methodology in the investigation was sound, said Massimo Cotrozzi, managing director of KCS Group, a London-based international cyber investigation consulting firm that was not involved in Mandiant’s research.

“No one as yet has provided the world conclusive evidence of a link between the Chinese military and the attacks. This report is the nearest thing to conclusive evidence that I have seen,” Cotrozzi said.

Mandiant said its findings led it to alter a 2010 report on Chinese hacking, in which it said it was not possible to determine the extent of government involvement.

“The details we have analyzed during hundreds of investigations convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them.”

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