The US Department of Justice has taken the unprecedented move of indicting five Chinese army officers of hacking into the networks of several American companies. So what were the hackers after?
- Nuclear power plant blueprints.
- A solar energy company’s business plans.
- Access to computers at steel plants.
That is what federal prosecutes say the hackers were looking for, according to a CNN Money article.
CNN explains: “The kind of spying China is accused of can yield valuable information and give the country’s businesses a much-needed boost. Westinghouse spent a significant amount of money designing the special pipes that are the defining feature of its AP1000 pressurized water reactor. Stealing those plans means that a Chinese nuclear plant builder might be able to skip costly research and development.
“This is a particularly critical issue in the solar power industry, where Chinese manufacturers have flooded the global market with cheap solar panels and undercut U.S. firms.”
As for steel:
“American metal is consistently better quality. It’s not enough to melt iron ore, coal, and limestone. Forging it is an art with highly-guarded secrets. Chinese manufacturers are good at making low-cost steel used in bridges, but American firms are better at making the lightweight versions used in fuel-efficient cars.
“In total, secretive economic attacks cost U.S. firms billions in lost profits and destroyed jobs”, said cyber-security expert David Kennedy, whose TrustedSec firm advises companies that have been attacked this way.”
The Chinese military engages in economic espionage presumably on behalf of Chinese companies. However, it is also believed that the regime employs cyber-intelligence to gain a military advantage that it lacks on the battlefield. In this way, the Chinese are able to use non-military operations to level the playing field in its military rivalry with the US. This would explain why the source of the attacks is the Chinese military itself.