Chinese Military Hack American Companies
TONY JONES, PRESENTER: A secretive unit within the Chinese military has been accused of mounting industrial-scale cyber-attacks on American companies.
People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 is said to be based in a drab-looking Shanghai tower, where it collects company secrets using high-tech hacking secrets.
The allegations, which are causing tension between Beijing and Washington, have been denied by the Chinese government.
China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports.
STEPHEN MCDONELL, REPORTER: An average looking building in Shanghai has become the centre of international espionage allegations. United States cyber-security firm Mandiant says this is the headquarters of People's Liberation Army Unit 61398. The company has reportedly traced Chinese cyber-attacks on more than 140 mainly-American companies back to this facility. The US State Department says it's concerned.
VICTORIA NULAND, US STATE DEPARTMENT: The United States has substantial and growing concerns about the threats to the United States' economic and national security interests posed by cyber intrusions, including the threat of commercial information.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: According to this new report, most of the material stolen has related to commercial secrets. The US government says it's arming American companies with better weapons to defend against industrial espionage emanating from China. It's also complaining to Beijing.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cyber theft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: But the Chinese military has denied these allegations of a widespread cyber-espionage campaign coming out of Unit 61398. And the foreign ministry here in the Chinese capital has countered that the United States remains the largest source of international hacking.
HONG LEI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (translated): Internet hacking attacks are an international problem that should be resolved on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation. Continuous criticism based on basic data is irresponsible, unprofessional and not helpful in resolving the issue.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: Australian intelligence agencies have also been warning companies of late to take greater care to guard against hacking.
ALASTAIR MACGIBBON, CENTRE FOR INTERNET SAFETY, UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA: Well I'd usually suggest that any trade-exposed industry - people involved in commodities, for example, exporting commodities and even importing commodities or goods and services - are going to be of strong interest to countries like China. Any organisation that is involved in significant research and development - so you'd probably lump universities and research institutes into that category.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: Alistair MacGibbon says Australian companies can't afford to be complacent.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: It would be fair to say that Australia is currently a target of the PLA, the People's Liberation Army. There's no reason for us to believe that we're somehow immune from these things. In fact there's strong evidence to suggest that Chinese government is not only interested in the Australian defence and intelligence communities, the usual type of stuff that you would expect intelligence agencies to want to gather against another country, but also actively involved in targeting Australian industry as well.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: It seems cyber-spying allegations are becoming an increasing source of tension between China and the West.