From the Wall Street Journal:
The Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officers, alleging they hacked U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, a major escalation in the fight between the two superpowers over economic espionage.
The indictment, unsealed Monday, marks the first time the U.S. government has publicly accused employees of a foreign power with cybercrimes against American firms. It also marks the most extensive formal allegations by the government of the kind of hacking that American corporations have long complained about, but until now have rarely acknowledged.
The five officers named in the indictment are Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui, who were charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse.
The only question is whether this is just another of those empty foreign-policy gestures the Obama Administration uses to make it look tougher than it really is or are they finally acknowledging the threat posed by China’s vast cyber espionage campaign?
China’s cyber spying is well-known within our government, it’s not as well-known or understood publicly though. Much of the American public still doesn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of China’s cyber espionage assault against the U.S. government and private industry, so the power of this indictment is its public specificity.
The indictment names five members of the People’s Liberation Army’s Shanghai based cyber espionage unit, Unit 61398, for hacking five U.S. companies and a labor union in the steel, solar and nuclear-power industries. The suspects allegedly sought information about computer systems, pricing and technology.
Sadly, I don’t see this indictment as much more than a publicity stunt… the simple truth is this a useless endeavor on the part of the Department of Justice — they will never be able to bring of the suspects to trial. About the only thing it does raise public awareness of China’s cyber espionage activities. That’s not a bad thing but at time when we need a coherent foreign policy for dealing with our two biggest antagonists, Russia and China, this administration is resorting PR stunts.
In light of recent activities by both China and Russia, we need to seriously rethink our trade relations, military information sharing, and host of activities with both. It should be abundantly clear that China and Russia are not our friends.