Five hackers from the Chinese military are facing charges of cyber-espionage for stealing trade secrets from six American companies, including Westinghouse Electric, U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, U.S. Steel, Allegheny Technologies and Alcoa, and The United Steel Workers union.
“This is a case alleging economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first-ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Each of the suspects was charged with 31 different criminal counts in a conspiracy that goes back eight years. These allegations claim "economic espionage" and "21st century burglary" stole U.S. companies' insider secrets which led to a loss of American jobs.
Other allegations from the indictment from NBC News:
- In 2010, one of the hackers swiped specs for pipes in power plants that Westinghouse was building in China and also peeked at sensitive emails from senior company officials making decisions about other business ventures with the Chinese company.
- While U.S. Steel was locked in trade disputes with Chinese firms in 2010, the unit used phishing emails to install malware on company computers that it used to exploit vulnerable servers.
- The unit stole emails about internal strategy from union leaders while they were involved in disputes over Chinese trade practices.
Naturally, China is denying the allegations and it's turning into a "he said, she said."
"The Chinese government's stance on the issue of Internet security is consistent and clear," said the statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, which urged "immediate rectification"... "China is a staunch defender of network security, and the Chinese government, military and associated personnel have never engaged in online theft of trade secrets," the statement said.