The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged some Chinese citizens in relation to a global hacking operation that infiltrated U.S. companies' business secrets. The DOJ alleged that the hackers worked in collaboration with China's state security service.
According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the hackers belong to a group called Advanced Persistent Threat 10 or APT 10, and that they nicked data from more than 45 U.S. companies. Hackers might also have attacked data of more than 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel, including the latter’s Social Security numbers, dates of birth, salary information, personal phone numbers, and email addresses – according to the DOJ.
Cybersecurity firms including CrowdStrike have linked the hacker group’s activity to China's Ministry of State Security. In 2009, APT 10 were accused of targeting Western defense companies involved in making large weapons systems.
"We know what China is doing it, we know why they are doing it, and in some instances we know who is sitting at the keyboard," Rosenstein said. The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that it would create a new website in support of US companies that might have been affected.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, tried to refute the charges, and said the U.S. had "fabricated facts out of thin air". Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated on Friday, "China firmly preserves cybersecurity, always opposing and cracking down on any forms of cyber theft ", while adding, "The Chinese government has never participated in or supported any theft of trade secrets."
The year was fueled by heated trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Only recently, President Donald Trump has been indicating that his trade negotiations with Beijing are going well. But now with the U.S. alleging China’s involvement in hacking, there could potentially be resurging concerns over U.S.-China relations.