China still trying to hack U.S. firms despite Xi’s vow to refrain, analysts say

Chinese government hackers have attempted in the past few weeks to penetrate the networks of U.S. companies to steal their secrets despite a pledge by China’s president that they would not do so, according to private researchers.

Chinese hackers have targeted at least seven U.S. companies since President Xi Jinping vowed last month in Washington that his country would not conduct cyber-economic espionage — the theft of trade secrets and intellectual property for the benefit of the nation’s industries, according to CrowdStrike, a firm that helps companies track and prevent intrusions.

In the three weeks since Xi left Washington — including the day after he left, on Sept. 26 — hackers linked to the Chinese government have attempted to gain access to tech and pharmaceutical companies’ networks, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike co-founder and chief technology officer, who released a report on the issue Monday.

The efforts continue to the present, sometimes several times a day, and appear to be distinct from traditional intelligence gathering, which is not covered by Xi’s pledge, Alperovitch noted.

The U.S. intelligence community is also seeing continued signs of cyber-economic espionage by Chinese hackers, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. But what it means at this point is not clear.

One senior military cyber­defense official said recently that any cessation of Chinese economic espionage activity will play out over time. “I think it’s too early for any of us to see any of those changes,” said the U.S. Cyber Command’s deputy commander, Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Oct. 9.

Some analysts noted that it could take time for China’s vast apparatus of cyberspies to be dismantled or refocused.

Alperovitch said he thinks enough time has passed. “The Chinese need to be held accountable for their continued attempts to steal IP and trade secrets through cyber-intrusions into commercial companies” he said. “The U.S government needs to make it clear that we will still use those sanctions unless these actions cease.”

Full article: China still trying to hack U.S. firms despite Xi’s vow to refrain, analysts say (Washington Post)

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