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Security Firm: PLA Unit Major Hacker

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Image from new white paper accusing the Chinese military of a major ongoing hacking operation. Mandiant

Image from new white paper accusing the Chinese military of a major ongoing hacking operation. Mandiant

A unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is one the most persistent Chinese security threats responsible for stealing, “hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations,” a Tuesday white paper from Virginia-based Mandiant claims and first reported by The New York Times.

The company alleges the 2nd Bureau of the PLA General staff Department’s (GsD) 3rd Department, operating out of a building in Shanghai, or PLA Unit 61398, is an “Advanced Persistent Threat,” (APT) responsible for theft of data from U.S. and Western interests.

Specifically, Mandiant has concluded PLA Unit 61398 is one known more notoriously as “APT 1,” read the report.

“Our analysis has led us to conclude that APT1 is likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors. We believe that APT1 is able to wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign in large part because it receives direct government support,” read the report.

If accurate, the report creates the most public link to date from China’s government to a growing cadre of sophisticated users that are bent on acquiring intellectual property.

While China’s manufacturing sectors have boomed, they are still on the trailing edge of high-technology research, especially in the military and defense technology realm. A peek at what higher technology firms are developing cuts the technology gap considerably. The Soviet military industry was notorious during the Cold War for reverse engineering stolen high technology Western designs and then manufacturing knock-offs for military.

China’s government has long been accused of similar behavior with little tangible evidence. All accusations, including this one have been met with denials.