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Obama administration indicts Chinese individuals in hacking case

U.S. Attorney General announcing indictment of Chinese individuals in hacking case.
U.S. Attorney General announcing indictment of Chinese individuals in hacking case.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

This morning, May 19, 2014, the U.S. Government indicted five Chinese individuals for hacking U.S. company computers. The grand jury indictment came from the Western District of Pennsylvania (WDPA) and was announced this morning by President Obama Attorney General appointee, Eric Holder. No word yet about indictments regarding the U.S. Government's own computer hacking of the American people and American businesses. The six companies victimized by the hack are Westinghouse Electric Co. (Westinghouse), U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG (SolarWorld), United States Steel Corp. (U.S. Steel), Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI), the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) and Alcoa Inc.

Today's indictment details how the five Chinese defendants hacked into the computer systems of six large U.S. companies. Conservatives, liberals and libertarians should be for the indictment; nonetheless, there is a certain irony of the U.S. accusing others of computer hacking, when the U.S. is admittingly guilty on a much larger scale. Last year, famous NSA leaker Edward Snowden, stated, "We hack network backbones -- like huge internet routers, basically -- that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one. Last week the American government happily operated in the shadows with no respect for the consent of the governed, but no longer."

This morning Holder said in his announcement, “This is a case alleging economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking. The range of trade secrets and other sensitive business information stolen in this case is significant and demands an aggressive response. Success in the global market place should be based solely on a company’s ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government’s ability to spy and steal business secrets. This Administration will not tolerate actions by any nation that seeks to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market.” No reporters asked Holder what free market he was referring to, as the U.S. has been without a free market for decades.

Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui, who were officers in Unit 61398 of the Third Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are the individuals indicted. The indictment alleges that Wang, Sun, and Wen, among others known and unknown to the grand jury, hacked or attempted to hack into U.S. entities named in the indictment, while Huang and Gu supported their conspiracy by, among other things, managing infrastructure (e.g., domain accounts) used for hacking. The subject of the hacking was related to stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies.

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James B. Comey was also at this morning's announcement and said, “For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries. The indictment announced today is an important step. But there are many more victims, and there is much more to be done. With our unique criminal and national security authorities, we will continue to use all legal tools at our disposal to counter cyber espionage from all sources.”

John Carlin, the Assistant Attorney General for U.S. National Security said this morning, “State actors engaged in cyber espionage for economic advantage are not immune from the law just because they hack under the shadow of their country’s flag. Cyber theft is real theft and we will hold state sponsored cyber thieves accountable as we would any other transnational criminal organization that steals our goods and breaks our laws.”

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