China Is Accused of Hacking the U.S. — Even After Signing a Pact Not To

China Is Accused of Hacking the U.S. — Even After Signing a Pact Not To
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

An American cybersecurity firm has raised new allegations against hackers in China, accusing them of trying to break into a number of organizations, at least seven of which are U.S. tech and pharmaceutical companies.

"Over the last three weeks, CrowdStrike Falcon platform has detected and prevented a number of intrusions into our customers' systems from actors we have affiliated with the Chinese government," Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CTO of CrowdStrike, wrote in a company blog post. "Seven of the companies are firms in the technology or pharmaceuticals sectors, where the primary benefit of the intrusions seems clearly aligned to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional national-security-related intelligence collection, which the cyber agreement does not prohibit." 

Mic reached out to Alperovitch, who was unavailable for comment.

While stories of Chinese hackers rummaging around U.S. companies and government installations are nothing new, the intrusions Alperovitch reports have the added audacity of coming mere weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Barack Obama agreed to take steps to fight cyberespionage on both sides of the Pacific. In an official fact sheet released shortly after a state visit by Xi in September, both sides signed a pact stating: 

"The United States and China agree that neither country's government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors."

In a press conference responding to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated her government's long-running official opposition to any form of cyberespionage. "Internet hacking attacks are marked by their secretive, cross-border nature," she said, according to Reuters

Despite the denials, a growing body of evidence suggests that Chinese hackers have developed an appetite for U.S. research and development and government secrets. These hackers' activities have also allegedly benefited from the direct intervention of the Chinese government. In 2013, the New York Times implicated a unit of the Chinese People's Liberation Army operating in Shanghai with an "overwhelming percentage" of cyberattacks on U.S. organizations. In May 2014, the Obama administration levied charges against five People's Liberation Army members for their role in the attacks. China denounced the move.

In 2013, shortly before Obama and Xi's first meeting, a commission led in part by Jon Huntsman Jr., former U.S. ambassador to China, suggested allowing corporations the right to retaliate against hackers with countermeasures of their own. 

The Obama administration told Reuters that it was aware of the CrowdStrike report, but offered no comment on its findings.