Two Chinese military websites - including the Defence Ministry - are routinely subjected to thousands of hacking attacks every month, the majority of which can be traced based to the US, Chinese authorities alleged this week.
Two-thirds of the 144,000 attacks a month against Chinese military sites last year came from the US, the ministry told Chinese journalists on Thursday, Reuters reports.
The accusation follows a high-profile report by US incident response firm Mandiant last week blaming a Shanghai-based People's Liberation Army affiliated team (dubbed Advanced Persistent Threat - APT -1) for attacks against 141 organisations across 20 industries in the US and other English-speaking countries over the last seven years. An Obama administration document days later also categorised China, and to a lesser extent Russia, as the sponsor of cyber-espionage attacks that threatened US jobs in multiple industries as well as menacing national security. Prime targets for these attacks include military contractors, IT and clean energy firms.
None of these accusations are new and China's traditional response has been to deny the charges, say it too has been a victim of cyberattacks, without going into details, and call for international co-operation. However in the face of increased attention to the issue of cyber-spying, which has extended into this week's RSA Conference in San Francisco, the Chinese authorities have decided to make specific counter-accusations against the US for the first time.
"The Defence Ministry and China Military Online websites have faced a serious threat from hacking attacks since they were established, and the number of hacks has risen steadily in recent years," Defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a closed monthly meeting of local journalists that excludes member of the foreign press corps.
"According to the IP addresses, the Defence Ministry and China Military Online websites were, in 2012, hacked on average from overseas 144,000 times a month, of which attacks from the US accounted for 62.9 percent," he added.
Geng also mentioned plans by the US to expand its military Cyber Command - suggesting that they were unhelpful in any moves to develop increased international cooperation in fighting hacking and computer intrusion.
Disputes about hacking attacks have strained diplomatic ties between China and the United States, already under pressure from arguments over trade, human rights and US support for Taiwan. ®
Everything you probably need to know about accusations of China hacking against the US, as detailed in the Mandiant report, has been summarised in its own inimitable style of animation by Taiwan's NMA TV (YouTube clip below):