CHINA HAS WARNED THE UNITED STATES that it will retaliate if it presses on with charges against five Chinese military workers following allegations that they hacked into US firms to steal trade secrets.
The allegations were brought forward on Monday, and a spokesperson from China's State Internet Information Office has since warned the US that it will "retaliate" if the US continues with the charges.
As quoted by Reuters, the spokesperson first claimed that the US "attacks, infiltrates and taps Chinese networks belonging to governments, institutions, enterprises, universities and major communication backbone networks."
He went on to say, "Those activities target Chinese leaders, ordinary citizens and anyone with a mobile phone.
"China has repeatedly asked the US to stop, but it never makes any statement on its wiretaps, nor does it desist, not to mention apologise to the Chinese people."
The charges announced yesterday signal the first time that the US government has publicly accused members of a foreign government with cybercrimes against US companies.
US Attorney General Eric Holder revealed the indictments on Monday, accusing five Shanghai-based Chinese officials of targeting the US nuclear power, metal and solar product industries in order to steal trade secrets that "would have been beneficial" to Chinese firms at the time that they allegedly were stolen.
Firms reportedly caught up in this alleged cyber-espionage are Westinghouse Electric, US subsidiaries of Solarworld AG, US Steel, Allegheny Technologies and Alcoa.
Holder said in a statement, "This is a case alleging economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first-ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking.
"This is a tactic that the United States government categorically denounces. This case should serve as a wake-up call to the seriousness of the ongoing cyber threat."
FBI Director James B Comey added, "For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries.
"The indictment announced today is an important step. But there are many more victims, and there is much more to be done. With our unique criminal and national security authorities, we will continue to use all legal tools at our disposal to counter cyber espionage from all sources."
Alcoa has become the first alleged victim of the Chinese hacks to cough, telling NBC News that, to its knowledge, "No information was compromised."
"Safeguarding our data is a top priority for Alcoa and we continue to invest resources to protect our systems."
Of course, this news comes just days after it was revealed that the NSA has been intercepting network equipment from firms such as Cisco to add surveillance backdoors to them.
China hasn't had much to say on the matter yet, with a spokesperson for the country's foreign ministry slamming the claims as "irresponsible". µ