U.S. hits back against Chinese cyberattacks

The Chinese military hacker unit has conducted operations since at least 2013 in support of China’s naval modernization effort. (U.S. Navy) (Photo by: Samuel Shavers)


American intelligence and military cyberwarriors have begun conducting counter-cyberattacks against Chinese intelligence and military targets, according to a U.S. official.

The counterattacks are part of a new Trump administration policy designed to retaliate for rampant cybertheft of American technology by the Chinese that has caused estimated losses ranging from $200 billion to $600 billion a year. Details of the U.S. cyberoperations were not disclosed, and the activities remain classified.

The hacking is likely to include theft of Chinese advanced military know-how, such as hypersonic missile technology — an area of military research where China is believed to be ahead of the United States. Another possible target would be technology related to China’s anti-ship ballistic missile technology like that deployed in the DF-21D ship-killing missile. Such technology requires maneuvering warheads and special guidance.

One recent reported U.S. operation involved cyberattacks on a Russian troll farm in St. Petersburg on the day of the November midterm elections, The Washington Post reported. The troll farm was linked to the Moscow influence operation against the 2016 presidential election.

Separately, security firms disclosed this week that Chinese military intelligence units have engaged in large-scale targeting of American underwater technology from universities and research institutes to boost Beijing’s naval buildup.

More than two dozen universities in the United States and around the world were targeted as part of an effort by the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, to build up its naval and submarine forces.

iDefense, one security firm, tracked the Chinese cyberattacks to a hacking group known variously as Temp.Periscope, Leviathan or Mudcarp. A second firm, FireEye, calls the hacking group APT40 or Temp.Periscope.

FireEye said the operations appear linked to Chinese activities in the South China Sea, where Beijing has built disputed islands and deployed advanced missiles on them beginning a year ago. The Chinese military hacker unit in charge of that region is the Chengdu-based Unit 78020.

The 27 universities included the University of Hawaii, the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Chinese were seeking submarine technology linked to the Pentagon’s Sea Dragon that involves the capability of firing anti-ship missiles while under water.

Also targeted was information on how to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles from submarines.


The commander of U.S. military forces in Europe said this week that Chinese investment in Europe is one of the major worries facing the European Command and NATO.


A Russian government agency reported in January that it detected the maneuvering of U.S. space satellites designed to monitor anti-satellite weapons and other space threats.

Russia’s Astro Space Center, known by its acronym, ANT, has been monitoring high-flying satellites that are part of the Air Force’s new Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program.

The Air Force operates four GSSAP in near-geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles in space that are used by the Strategic Command as part of the space surveillance operations.

“Space situational awareness” is the military’s term for monitoring space activities that can include anti-satellite missile activities, laser beam strikes, electronic jamming or small maneuvering co-orbital satellites that can be used to attack other satellites.

Two GSSAP satellites were launched in 2014 and another two were launched in 2016.

Russia’s federal news agency quoted ANT as stating that the space monitoring satellites “have recently been showing active movements.”

A Russian automated system that provides warning of dangerous events in near-Earth space “detected numerous movements by all four GSSAP satellites,” the report said.

The satellite movements coincided with the recent launch of a U.S. reconnaissance satellite that private analysts suspect is a new KN-11 optical intelligence satellite.

The activities also followed the reported recent test of a Russian Nudol anti-satellite missile, the report said.

Full article: U.S. hits back against Chinese cyberattacks (The Washington Times)

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