White House accuses China of hacking US companies

The White House has issued one of the sternest warnings to China over accusations that the Chinese military is actively engaged in a series of cyber attacks on US companies and institutions. Although the US and China have traded hacking accusations for months, the Obama administration is now apparently trying to take the dispute to a new level.

National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon on Monday called on Chinese authorities to recognise the urgency of the problem and to investigate the alleged hacking. He also urged China to be part of an international effort to create rules of the road for appropriate activities in cyberspace.

“Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” Donilon told the Asia Society in New York. “The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” he said.

The Chinese government maintains that it is not involved in the hacking of companies. A spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in Washington echoed statements made by Chinese Foireng Minister Yang Jiechy a few days ago, pointing out that China is also the target of cyber attacks and stressed that cyberspace needs more rules and cooperation, rather than war.

“We oppose cyberspace becoming a new battlefield, and to using the internet as a new tool to interfere in another country’s internal affairs,” said Yang.

The new White House push comes as no surprise, as US President Barack Obama addressed the topic during his State of the Union Address last month and went on to issue an executive order calling for more cyber security. However, Obama did not directly name China in the address, so Donilon’s statements represent an escalation in the Sino-American war of words.