China’s state-run Xinhua news service published an apoplectic editorial on Christmas Day denouncing the U.S. Justice Department for indicting two Chinese nationals for a massive hacking scheme.
The editorial echoed, and amplified, the Chinese government’s line that the charges were fabricated to suit American policy objectives in the trade war.
The Justice Department last week accused Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong of waging a cyber-espionage campaign that stole technology and sensitive information from systems in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. The two defendants were linked to a hacker group called APT10 – which is, in turn, linked to Chinese military intelligence.
Xinhua said the United States “embarrassed itself” by bringing the charges as part of a “slanderous campaign” of accusations supported by no “conclusive proof”:
International Business Machines (IBM), which is on the list of “victim companies,” said it had no evidence that sensitive data and client information had been compromised.
In fact, it was not the first time for the United States, which has a notorious record in cyber issues, to cook up unfounded accusations against “Chinese hackers” via anonymous sources.
“Lanxiang Vocational School,” a Chinese vocational school offering courses in subjects like cooking, auto repair and hairdressing, was reported as the “Chinese stronghold of hackers” by The New York Times several years ago, making the news source the butt of public jokes.
Coincidentally, Bloomberg Businessweek in a report two months ago claimed that China implanted malicious chips in the hardware of U.S. companies, which was swiftly denied by Apple and Amazon.
Contrary to Xinhua’s assertions, the New York Times is not the only party to view Lanxiang Vocational School and its hometown of Jinan with suspicion. The Bloomberg Businessweek report mentioned by Xinhua has indeed been the source of much controversy and adamant denials from the companies involved, but Bloomberg stood by the article and refused to retract it, continuing to reference its “Big Hack” story of compromised chips as recently as late November.
Xinhua pushed the Chinese government’s line that America only complains about Chinese cyber-espionage to distract from its own efforts to “hack into and eavesdrop on foreign governments, enterprises, and individuals.”
As Chinese officials invariably do, Xinhua insisted China is “steadfast in safeguarding cybersecurity and opposing all forms of cyber espionage,” charging the U.S. with violating “the basic norms of international relations” by suggesting otherwise.
Allegations of Chinese mischief do not come exclusively from the U.S. government. Private security firms warn China is “stealing intellectual property on a massive scale,” as CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch put it. Chinese hackers are said to have grown more active as the trade war heated up, with more of the activity coming from the skilled hackers working for the Ministry of State Security rather than the People’s Liberation Army.
The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-December about an exceptionally vigorous campaign by Chinese hackers to raid the computer systems of U.S. Navy contractors, conducting one of the “most debilitating cyber campaigns linked to Beijing.” One of the breaches apparently resulted in the theft of plans for a submarine-launched supersonic anti-ship missile.
“Cyber fingerprints pointing to China include the remote administering of malware from a computer address accidentally exposed as located in the island province of Hainan, and a documented use of a suite of custom hacking tools shared among known Chinese hacking groups. U.S. officials also say they have classified sources and methods that make it clear China is responsible,” the Journal wrote