World's foremost "cyber espionage" hub in Shanghai
A US-based computer security firm releases report blaming a Chinese company backed by the People's Liberation Army for most of the stealing of sensitive data from companies in the world since 2004. Chinese authorities react angrily, saying the accusations are unproven.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government runs the "most prolific cyber espionage groups" in the world. Covered by military secret, Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army stole sensitive data from at least 141 companies in the world, said Mandiant, a US-based computer security company, in a report that has angered Communist China.

The report notes that traces left after hacker attacks lead back to a non-descript building in Pudong, on Shanghai's Eastside. A BBC journalist who tried to film the site was taken into custody and eventually released after his equipment was wiped clean.

In its study, Mandiant said it had investigated hundreds of data breaches since 2004. What it uncovered shows "that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them".

The most active of these actors is APT1, which Mandiant says is "a single organisation of operators that has conducted a cyber espionage campaign against a broad range of victims"

Mandiant said it had traced the hacking activities of APT1 to a 12-storey building in Shanghai's Pudong area, staffed by hundreds, possibly thousands, of proficient English speakers with advanced computer security and networking skills. It said that Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army "is also located in precisely the same area".

The report found that APT1 had hacked into 141 companies and stolen hundreds of terabytes of information, targeting industries identified by China "as strategically important under its Five Year Plan for economic growth".

China's government has reacted angrily to the accusations. "Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei. "Determining their origins is extremely difficult".

"We don't know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable" but "Arbitrary criticism based on rudimentary data is irresponsible."