In a desperate attempt to make people stop thinking that is spying on everyone, the US government arrested some Chinese officials and accused them of hacking.
Last week the NSA was caught opening the boxes of Cisco routers to install spyware, so the arrests have served to distract the American press a little and allow it to pretend to be a victim again.
The United States charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets, ratcheting up tensions between the two world powers over cyber espionage.
China immediately denied the charges, saying in a strongly worded Foreign Ministry statement the US grand jury indictment was “made up” and would damage trust between the two nations.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference that when a foreign nation uses military or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say, ‘enough is enough’.
Targeted companies including Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, United States Steel, Toshiba unit Westinghouse Electric Co, the U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld, and a steel workers’ union.
The victims had all filed unfair trade claims against their Chinese rivals, helping Washington draw a link between the alleged hacking activity and its impact on international business.
The US claims that Chinese state-owned companies “hired” Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army “to provide information technology services” including assembling a database of corporate intelligence.
Security expert Tom Cross, of Lancope, said that the US Department of Justice is a step forward on the long road toward establishing a set of international norms regarding cyber espionage.
“A clear international legal framework exists for acts of warfare between nation states, even if those acts occur in cyberspace, but that framework only applies to attacks that damage physical infrastructure or that have the potential to harm people. There are fewer rules that apply to spying activity,” he said.
He added that part of addressing the problem of international spying on the Internet involves setting standards for what is and is not an acceptable target.
“This will prompt a dialog about International norms in this area, and having that dialog is a vital part of coming to grips with the impact that Internet security issues are having on our societies,” Cross said.