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Hackers Are Having a Field Day on China’s Wild Web

With thin encryption resources available, some 400,000 domestic hackers cost the economy $15 billion a year, by one estimate.
Photographer: Getty Images

The typical image of Chinese hackers is of operatives working for or with the tacit approval of the government, targeting valuable or sensitive data at foreign companies or government agencies. While there are plenty of those, many in China—like hackers elsewhere—also target the laptop of their ex-boss or the smartphone of the guy in front of them at the coffee shop.

China’s criminal hacking community numbers at least 400,000 and sucks 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) out of the country’s economy each year, according to Zheng Bu, an angel investor and former executive at cybersecurity company FireEye. “There is a large criminal ecosystem in China,” says Bryce Boland, FireEye’s chief technology officer for the Asia-Pacific region. And with government restrictions on security technology tightening, individuals and businesses can have a tough time combating the crooks.