Intel chairwoman: Report on China’s cyber war unit ‘essentially correct’

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday said a bombshell report of cyber spying by the Chinese government is “essentially correct.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said classified intelligence documents support the recent claim by security firm Mandiant that an elite military unit of Chinese hackers is continuously attacking U.S. government and private computer networks.

{mosads}”I read the Mandiant report. I’ve also read other reports, classified out of Intelligence, and I think the Mandiant report, which is now unclassified, it’s public, is essentially correct,” Feinstein said on MSNBC.

The Mandiant report, which was released last week, traced a series of cyberattacks to a 12-story building in Shanghai. The private security analysts concluded that the building, which likely holds hundreds or even thousands of employees, is almost certainly the headquarters of China’s secretive cyber war division, the People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398.

Mandiant wrote that since 2006, the Chinese hackers have stolen data from at least 141 companies across 20 major industries, including critical infrastructure sectors like energy and telecommunications. At least 115 of the companies were in the United States. 

China has denied the accusations.

The Obama administration has said that many cyberattacks are coming from China, but has yet to explicitly accuse the Chinese government of carrying out the attacks.

“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” the White House wrote in a recent report on trade secret theft. “U.S. private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the [intelligence community] cannot confirm who was responsible.” 

Asked about the Mandiant report last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration has repeatedly raised its concerns “at the highest levels about cyber theft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so.”

Feinstein said she is “very concerned” about cyber espionage and urged the Chinese government to acknowledge the program.

“I think China has to face up to it. I think our government needs to sit down with China forthwith, present the evidence to China, ask China for its investigation, and press, press, press,” she said. “This is going to no good end unless there is some agreement between our two nations and the world community for an agreement which is enforceable. One of these days there is going to be a huge cyberattack somewhere, and we must prevent that from happening.”

Last week, the White House unveiled a strategy aimed at fighting the theft of trade secrets. Among other steps, the administration said it will use “trade policy tools” to pressure other countries to stop hacking U.S. companies and to enforce intellectual property laws.

Feinstein and other lawmakers back legislation aimed at improving U.S. cybersecurity practices. 

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