2011-12-12 / Focus

As few as 12 hacker teams responsible for bulk of China-based data theft

WASHINGTON (AP) — As few as 12 different Chinese groups, largely backed or directed by the government there, commit the bulk of the China- based cyberattacks stealing critical data from U.S. companies and government agencies, according to U.S. cybersecurity analysts and experts.

The aggressive but stealthy attacks, which have stolen billions of dollars in intellectual property and data, often carry distinct signatures allowing U.S. officials to link them to certain hacker teams. Analysts say the U.S. often gives the attackers unique names or numbers, and at times can tell where the hackers are and even who they may be.

Sketched out by analysts who have worked with U.S. companies and the government on computer intrusions, the details illuminate recent claims by American intelligence officials about the escalating cyber threat emanating from China. And the widening expanse of targets, coupled with the expensive and sensitive technologies they are losing, is putting increased pressure on the U.S. to take a much harder stand against the communist giant.

It is largely impossible for the U.S. to prosecute hackers in China, since it requires reciprocal agreements between the two countries, and it is always difficult to provide ironclad proof that the hacking came from specific people.

Several analysts described the Chinese attacks, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigations and to protect the privacy of clients. China has routinely rejected allegations of cyberspying and says it also is a target.

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