Intel panel notes ‘important first step’ for hacking charges

The heads of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday praised the Obama administration’s targeting of Chinese military hackers, but said that it was just the beginning.

In a joint statement, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) called the Justice Department’s charges against five members of the Chinese military “an important first step” but “just the tip of the iceberg.”

There are thousands of military hackers working to snoop on American companies every day, they claimed.

“We must hold Beijing accountable and pressure the Chinese government to stop manipulating the free market through its use of cyber economic espionage,” they said. “While every nation collects information to protect itself, it is unacceptable for any nation to steal intellectual property simply to get rich at other nations’ expense. ”

The statement comes after the administration’s allegations that five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army had broken into the networks of six U.S. companies and stolen information. Those trade secrets and business strategies were used to give a leg up to Chinese companies, including those owned by the state.

Analysts said the action had likely been in the works for years and could lead to retaliation from China.

Almost immediately after the Obama administration unveiled the charges, the Chinese Foreign Ministry filed a formal protest and pulled out of a bilateral cyber working group.