Beijing Claims No Military Cyberattacks as Hacker Army Re-emerges

August 26, 2013 Updated: December 15, 2013

The Chinese regime is denying its use of military hackers, amid the recent re-emergence of a hacker group that was traced back to the Chinese military.

The denials were made by Chang Wanquan, the regime’s state councilor and defense minister, during an Aug. 19 meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“The Chinese government always firmly opposes and fights against cybercrimes according to law. The Chinese military has never supported any hacker actions,” said Chang Wanquan, according to a report from Chinese state-run media People’s Daily.

Just a week prior to Chang Wanquan’s statement, however, a group of hackers that was traced back to the Chinese military launched fresh assaults on U.S. business and government targets.

The hackers were using updated versions of the tools they have used in the past, according to a report from security research group FireEye.

The same group also briefly re-emerged in May and stole information from U.S. businesses and government targets.

The hacker group, called Unit 61398, was traced by security researchers at Mandiant to four large hacker groups based in Shanghai, under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) cyberwar division.

Mandiant released a report on their findings in February. It states that Unit 61398 “has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes from at least 141 organizations, and has demonstrated the capability and intent to steal from dozens of organizations simultaneously.”

The Chinese hackers went dormant soon after, as media and government called them out directly, and began pressuring the Chinese regime over its aggressive use of military hackers.

In terms of military strategy, cyberattacks fall under the category of “non-contact war,” which also includes the use of drones, and space-based weapons usually intended to destroy satellites.

The Chinese regime has clearly stated its intention to leverage cyberwar for its military ambitions. Several reports outline this strategy, including the April 2013 defense white paper, released by the regime’s Information Office of the State Council.

The white paper discusses the rise of cyberwar as “informationization,” and states “Over the years, the PLA has been proactively and steadily pushing forward its reforms in line with the requirements of performing its missions and tasks, and building an informationized military.”

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