China says U.S. charges against five Chinese military officials for allegedly hacking into American computers amount to hypocrisy, citing U.S. surveillance and wiretapping. The country's foreign ministry summoned the American ambassador Monday night to complain about the charges.
"From 'WikiLeaks' to the 'Snowden' case, U.S. hypocrisy and double standards regarding the issue of cyber-security have long been abundantly clear," the defense ministry said on its website, according to Agence France-Presse.
The U.S. said Monday that it has filed criminal charges against five officials from Unit 61398, a division of the country's army that has previously been tied to hacking operations. The Justice Department issued FBI "Wanted" posters with names and photos of the men, in a move widely seen as a bold attempt to embarrass the Chinese. The U.S. says the men hacked into the computer systems of U.S. companies to steal trade secrets.
From Shanghai, NPR's Frank Langfitt reports:
"China's government has angrily denied it backed commercial espionage against the U.S., and said attacks out of America in the last couple of months had seized control of more than a million computers here."
"Revelations by Edward Snowden about National Security Agency spying have made it harder for the U.S. to press its case.
"In March, leaked documents showed the NSA had hacked Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant. One goal was to find any links between Huawei and China's People's Liberation Army.
"The U.S. insists it does not share intelligence gathered in such operations with American firms. But most Chinese don't believe that."
As for the public reaction in China, Frank adds, "Chinese look at this and say, 'You're doing what you're accusing us of doing.' So today on social media here in China, there was lots of criticism of the U.S. One user called the U.S. 'the most shameless Internet thief.' "
Chinese officials sought to back their claim Tuesday, releasing data they called proof of U.S. hacking efforts in China. State-run Xinhua News reports that in a recent two-month span, "a total of 2,077 Trojan horse networks or botnet servers in the U.S. directly controlled 1.18 million host computers in China."
Citing a government technical report, the agency reports that "in the same period, the center found 2,016 IP addresses in the U.S. had implanted backdoors in 1,754 Chinese websites, involving 57,000 backdoor attacks."
The U.S. charges could be the opening salvo in an escalating clash over cybersecurity.
"What we can expect to happen is for the Chinese government to indict individuals in the United States who they will accuse of hacking into computers there," former U.S. cybercrimes prosecutor Mark Rasch tells The Associated Press. "Everybody now is going to jump into the act, using their own criminal laws to go after what other countries are doing."
The highly public unveiling of the U.S. charges Monday has already had a chilling effect on U.S.-Chinese relations, as China quickly suspended the work of a collaborative group that was recently formed with the U.S. to work on cybersecurity issues.
China's government has also announced that its computers will not use Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. Officials say the decision was made because of a disagreement on price.