China Foreign Minister Says Hacking Articles on Shaky Ground

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said articles blaming China’s government and military for computer hacking are on “shaky ground” and such stories serve political motives.

China opposes turning cyberspace into a “new battlefield,” and countries should introduce global rules to govern conduct, Yang told reporters today at a press conference during the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

The U.S.-based security firm Mandiant Corp. said in a Feb. 19 report that the Chinese army may be behind a hacking group that has attacked at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006. Corporations and government agencies are increasingly finding themselves under attack, leading U.S. President Barack Obama to issue an executive order on Feb. 12 directing the government to share more cyber-threat data with the private sector.

“There have been quite a few reports about hacker attacks recently and many of them picked on China,” Yang said. “These articles may have crossed the eyes of many people but actually they are built on shaky ground.”

Sensational stories that serve political motives won’t be able to “blacken the names of others,” he said.

The New York Times in January reported that its computer systems were breached by Chinese hackers, a claim China has denied. The Wall Street Journal outlined similar attacks on its systems, while Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, said there have been unsuccessful attempts to infiltrate its network.

‘New Battlefield’

“We oppose turning cyberspace into a new battlefield or using the Internet as a new tool to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations,” Yang said.

Mandiant said it traced the group, labeled Advanced Persistent Threat 1, to four large computer networks in Shanghai. Two of the networks serve the Pudong New Area district, where a secret army unit called 61398 is based, the report said.

China’s government opposes hacking and has drawn up rules and laws to strictly forbid hackers, Yang said. China is committed to building a peaceful, open and co-operative Internet, he said. The country has also advocated and submitted specific proposals for a set of international rules governing the Internet under a United Nations framework, he said.

“What this cyber space needs is not war but rules and cooperation,” Yang said.

China’s Ministry of Defense said this month that its website and an affiliated military media site received an average of 144,000 attacks a month from overseas last year. Almost two-thirds of those attacks came from the U.S., Chinese defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said, according to a statement posted to the ministry’s website March 1.

China regularly censors its Internet and blocks users from posting information critical of the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese version of Microsoft Corp.’s Skype videophone and texting service, with nearly 96 million users, monitors users, scanning messages for specific words and phrases, according to research by Jeffrey Knockel, a computer science graduate student at the University of New Mexico.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson, and Michael Forsythe

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