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US charges five Chinese officials with cyber-spying

Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui charged with hacking

By AP

The United States has brought cyber-espionage charges against five Chinese military officials accused of hacking into American companies to gain trade secrets.

US Attorney General Eric Holder claimed the officials hacked into six nuclear power, metals and solar products firms. He said the companies affected were Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric, Allegheny Technologies, US Steel, United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld.

The charges have been described as unprecedented and realise a long-held Obama administration goal to prosecute State-sponsored cyber threats.

"This is the new normal. This is what you're going to see on a recurring basis," said Bob Anderson, executive assistant director of the FBI's cyber division.

US officials have accused China's army and China-based hackers of launching attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property.

The indictment alleges that five People's Liberation Army officers "maintained unauthorized access to victim computers to steal information from these entities that would be useful" to the victims' competitors in China, the attorney general said.

Their names are Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui, according to the indictment.

China has said it faces a major threat from hackers, and the country's military is believed to be among the biggest targets of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command.

Last September President Barack Obama discussed cyber-security issues on the sidelines of a summit in Russia with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. White House spokesman Ben Rhodes said at the time that Mr Obama had addressed concerns about cyber threats emanating from China.

In late March US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed that the Pentagon planned to more than triple its cyber-security staff in the next few years to defend against internet attacks that threaten national security.

Mr Hagel's comments at the NSA headquarters came as he prepared to visit China.

"Our nation's reliance on cyberspace outpaces our cyber-security," Mr Hagel said at the time.

"Our nation confronts the proliferation of destructive malware and a new reality of steady, ongoing and aggressive efforts to probe, access or disrupt public and private networks, and the industrial control systems that manage our water, and our energy and our food supplies."

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