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Cyber Security

US firm accuses China of supporting hacking operation

A US-based cybersecurity company has released a report detailing nearly 150 incidents of hacking, which it said the Chinese military led. China has dismissed the claims as "groundless" and irresponsible.

The report released by the Mandiant Corporation attributed some 141 cases of cyber theft to a group it calls APT1, "the most prolific cyber espionage group" the company tracks. After a lengthy analysis of numerous factors, including IP addresses, the researchers said they believed the attacks were being generated from an office building occupied by China's People's Liberation Army in Shanghai.

"The nature of 'Unit 61398's' work is considered by China to be a state secret; however, we believe it engages in harmful 'Computer Network Operations'," the US cybersecurity firm wrote in its report, referring to the bureau's alias.

The numerous operators suspected to be behind the attacks had reportedly stolen hundreds of terabytes of information.

Accusations of systematic hacking also included attempts to interfere in industries closely linked to US-domestic and international security, such as those of military contractors and power grid companies. Mandiant added that other countries spanning over a dozen industries had also been hacked by the Chinese unit.

"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," the company said.

China 'firmly opposed to hacking'

A spokesperson for China's defense ministry vehemently denied the allegations, insisting that the Asian country itself had also been the victim of cyber espionage and theft.

"Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous. Determining their origins are extremely difficult," spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing. "We don't know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable."

The Chinese government does not condone hacking and has itself increasingly become the victim of cyberattacks, he added.

"To make groundless accusations based on some rough material is neither responsible nor professional," Hong told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.

kms/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)