US lawmakers praise hacking charges against Chinese military

The DOJ's charges should let China know that the US is tired of industrial espionage, lawmakes say

U.S. Department of Justice computer hacking charges against five suspected members of the Chinese army should send a message that the U.S. government is fed up with state-sponsored cyberattacks, some lawmakers said Wednesday.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee praised Monday's DOJ announcement of computer hacking and economic espionage charges against five supposed members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

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Lawmakers are "encouraged" by the recent DOJ charges against the Chinese suspects and against alleged members of the Blackshades malware-distributing organization, Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, said during a hearing Wednesday.

"I hope there's a signal for more aggressive U.S. actions to address the cyberthreat as we go forward," King said during the hearing on U.S. cyberthreats.

China, Russia and Iran represent serious threats to U.S. infrastructure and businesses, King said. Russia China and Iran have "demonstrated a willingness to use cyberspace to steal our military secrets, to target our critical infrastructure and even to attack our free press and financial sector," he added. "Each has invested a great deal in cyber defensive and offensive capabilities."

Chinese officials have denied the charges brought by the DOJ, with Chinese Embassy representative Geng Shuang calling the charges "purely ungrounded and absurd."

On Tuesday, a report in Chinese-run media said during the last two months, U.S.-based servers took control of about 1.2 million Chinese computers, resulting in the stealing of trade secrets and fraud.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang also accused the U.S. of targeting China with cybertheft, wiretapping and surveillance activities.

But the DOJ detailed "strong specific evidence" against the Chinese defendants in the charges it released this week after about a year of investigation, said Representative Yvette Clarke, a New York Democrat. The DOJ action "sends a clear signal to the other side that their actions have become intolerable," she said during Wednesday's hearing.

Chinese officials have been unwilling to listen to U.S. concerns about state-sponsored espionage, said Representative Pat Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican. Meehan and other members of a U.S. delegation to China in April raised concerns to high-level officials there.

"We specifically raised concerns about state-sponsored industrial espionage and the importance of protecting and respecting intellectual property and the trade secrets of American businesses," Meehan said. "China has a responsibility to adhere to international law, a responsibility it has repeatedly failed to acknowledge."

Chinese officials admitted nothing during the visit, he said. Chinese officials "refused to admit they condoned or supported their state-sponsored corporate espionage, and they refused to concede that American businesses were routinely targeted by Chinese hackers for intrusion," he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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