The US have charged Chinese officials with hacking private sector companies

In a first-of-its-kind cyber espionage case, the United States has charged five Chinese hackers with breaking into US companies to gain trade secrets.

The indictments will accuse individuals of participating in cyber espionage on behalf of a foreign government, said an official, who revealed this information only on grounds of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the case in advance of the official announcement.

The official described the prosecution as the first of its kind for the US Government.

US vs China

There has always been tension between the US and China over cyber attacks, with the US accusing China of being responsible for attacks on companies as well as US military targets.

US officials have previously accused China’s army and China-based hackers of launching attacks on American industrial and military targets, aiming to steal secrets or intellectual property. China has responded by saying that it faces a major threat from hackers, and the country’s military is believed to be among the biggest targets of the NSA and US Cyber Command.

Shortage of skills

Earlier this year, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced plans for the Pentagon to triple its cyber security staff over the next few years in an attempt to defend against cyber attacks that threaten national security.

Hagel went on to say, “Our nation’s reliance on cyberspace outpaces our cybersecurity. Our nation confronts the proliferation of destructive malware and a new reality of steady, ongoing and aggressive efforts to probe, access or disrupt public and private networks, and the industrial control systems that manage our water, and our energy and our food supplies.”

The initiative to increase the number of adequately skilled staff serves as a leading example for organisations failing to defend themselves against cyber attacks.