Chinese Hackers Like a 'Drunk Burglar,' 'Kicking Down the Door,' Says FBI Director

What is it about China and some U.S. officials? Get them talking about one of the flash points in the two countries’ conflicted relationship, and they start going off script.

Previously it was Vice President Joe Biden, who challenged his audience in a commencement speech this year to name “one innovative product that has come out of China,” adding “give me a break.”

Now the latest: James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In an interview broadcast yesterday on the CBS News program 60 Minutes, Comey was asked which countries are attacking the U.S. in cyberspace.

“Well, I don’t want to give you a complete list. But the top of the list is the Chinese,” Comey said, citing the indictments handed down earlier this year against five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. “They are extremely aggressive and widespread in their efforts to break into American systems to steal information that would benefit their industry.”

So who’s been targeted by China’s now notorious hackers, the interviewer Scott Pelley asked. Answer: just about everyone. “There are two kinds of big companies in the United States,” Comey said. “There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.” Losses attributed to Chinese hacking are “impossible to count” but amounted to “billions” annually, he said.

But where Comey got really colorful was in his answer to the question of just how good the Chinese hackers are. “Actually, not that good,” the director said. “I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They’re kicking in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they’re walking out with your television set. They’re just prolific. Their strategy seems to be: ‘We’ll just be everywhere all the time. And there’s no way they can stop us.’”

“Bonnie and Clyde could not do a thousand robberies in the same day, in all 50 states, from their pajamas, halfway around the world,” Comey added.

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