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Chinese Hackers Back On Attack Following U.S. Exposure

By Michael Mayday , May 20, 2013 04:10 PM EDT
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Members of Unit 61398, believed to be the Chinese hackers responsible for breaking into The Wall Street Journal, Lockheed Martin, Coco-Cola and a multitude of U.S. agencies and industries are at it again. The group, believed to be members of China's People's Liberation Army, was the subject of a massive report by The New York Times –– another victim of the hackers –– in February.

That exposé caused the hackers to cease their attacks and focus on covering their digital tracks. Until now.

According to a new report by The New York Times, the group has gradually restarted its cyber-espionage program over the past two months. It's currently targeting many of the same companies it previously attacked, only this time it's using new techniques, servers and computers.

The cybersecurity research firm Mandiant, responsible for tracking and documenting most of Unit 61398 in February's report, says the group is operating at roughly 60 to 70 percent of its former capacity. The firm said it cannot confirm any of the new victims due to privacy agreements with its clients.

"They dialed it back for a little while, though other groups that also wear uniforms didn't even bother to do that," Kevin Mandia, the chief executive of Mandiant, said in an interview with The New York Times. "I think you have to view this as the new normal."

The People's Republic of China, for its part, categorically denies any part in the attacks, and often rebukes criticism by claiming that the U.S. government is far more aggressive in its hacking program.

And it is true that the U.S. government is far from innocent when it comes to cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage. The U.S. is known to be one of the largest purchasers of malware, keeping zero day security exploits to itself to later fold into other exploitative attacks. Additionally, the U.S., with some help from Israel, is also responsible for the Stuxnet virus, a virus specifically created to target, and destroy, uranium centrifuges in Iran. It succeeded.

The topic of cyberattacks, and China's role in them, is expected to be one of the main discussion points when President Obama's national security advisor Tom Donilon meets with Chinese officials later this year.

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