A Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in front of 'Unit 61398', a secretive Chinese military unit, in the outskirts of Shanghai, February 19, 2013.
Credits: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. -- The U.S. government is promising penalties after an explosive report from an American security firm said 141 different companies had their data stolen by Chinese government operatives.
Canada was attacked too; a company that provides remote control monitoring of pipelines was targeted.
The Virginia-based cyber-security firm Mandiant said everything from Canada's Telvent Canada Ltd., which provides services to pipelines, to U.S. military contractors have been hacked, in some cases for years.
The firm says it traced the cyber thefts all the way to a building in Shanghai owned by the Chinese government and staffed by the People's Army.
While not naming China specifically, the White House released a document Wednesday detailing its new cyber security strategy.
"We will continue to act vigorously to combat the theft of U.S. trade secrets that could be used by foreign companies or foreign governments to gain an unfair economic edge," the document reads.
"Trade secret theft threatens American businesses, undermines national security, and places the security of the U.S. economy in jeopardy."
Chinese officials said the information accusing them is unreliable.
Chinese police chased down a CNN camera crew that was filming the 12-storey Shanghai building thought to be the base of operations for the gigabyte grifting.
North American experts in espionage aren't buying it.
"Officials in Beijing can say all they want they are not involved in hacking, but the evidence is becoming overwhelming," said Prof. David Skillicornt of the Queen's School of Computing in Kingston, Ont., and a cyber-hacking expert.
"Once you have enough data-points pointing the finger at the Chinese government, their deniability becomes pretty flimsy."
Some of the hacked companies manufacture military equipment, but one expert said the key concern is still economic.
"The war China has been winning, thus far, has been economic and it comes as no surprise to me if they're fighting dirty," said Jeff Fischbach, forensic technologist and founder of SecondWave
Information Systems in California.
Fischbach told QMI Agency that while corporations have some defences against cyber theft, they need backup from the American and Canadian governments.
"China's greatest modern innovation has been their ability to so accurately copy other people's innovations; I can't imagine that this report is the first time anyone has suspected cyber-espionage."
Fischback cites an example this past fall where the Chinese makers of an iPhone5 knock-off threatened to actually sue Apple, the creator of legit iPhones, if they released their authentic product in China where the phoney GooPhone is a hot seller.