updated 08:55 pm EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Persistent attacks by China linked to People's Army
According to sources familiar with the matter, the White House is getting ready to detail a specific policy in regards to state-sponsored hacking, likely perpetrated by China. Allegedly, President Obama is evaluating trade restrictions, fines, and other unnamed penalties as initial moves the US government would take in response to the near constant attacks linked to the Chinese government by the independent report.
A report earlier today tied a Chinese army unit to nearly a decade of cyber attacks against US interests and businesses. After examining more than 140 companies, security analysis firm Mandiant reported that they can be linked specifically to People's Army Unit 61398.
"In a state that rigorously monitors Internet use, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese government is unaware of an attack group that operates from the Pudong New Area of Shanghai," the unclassified Mandiant report said. The Pudong New Area is a neighborhood in the outskirts of Shanghai that includes a white 12-story office building run by the PLA's Unit 61398.
"At some point we do have to call the Chinese out on this," said Michael Chertoff, chairman of global security firm Chertoff Group. "Simply rolling over and averting our eyes, I don't think is a long-term strategy."
BBC reporter John Sudworth and his camera crew were briefly detained by soldiers when they went to film the facility in question. They were only released once they had been questioned and handed over the recorded footage in its entirety.
"If the Chinese government flew planes into our airspace, our planes would escort them away. If it happened two, three or four times, the president would be on the phone and there would be threats of retaliation," said former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry. "This is happening thousands of times a day. There needs to be some definition of where the red line is and what the repercussions would be."
The unit is accused by the report of having stolen hundreds of terabytes of information from hundreds of worldwide businesses, including blueprints, user credentials, email archives, and contact lists. The facility is manned by hundreds, and possibly thousands of proficient English speakers, all highly trained in intrusion and networking skills.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that "we have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so. The United States and China are among the world's largest cyber actors, and it is vital that we continue a sustained, meaningful dialogue and work together to develop an understanding of acceptable behavior in cyberspace."