China Says the U.S. Is Actually the Hacker You Should Be Worried About

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Days after cybersecurity firm Mandiant published an eye-popping report of state-sponsored cyber espionage by the China's People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese have fired back.  They're not only denying that they are behind the attack, they also say that they're actually the victim and that the United States of America is actually the biggest culprit of overseas hacking.

Here's what their multi-faceted denial looks like:

There might be hacking, but China doesn't support it. "Chinese law forbids hacker attacks that undermine Internet security, the Chinese government has always resolutely combated related criminal activities, the Chinese army has never supported any hacker activity," reads a statement from China's Ministry of Defense. Over the past two years China has been accused of cyber espionage multiple times, including some reports by U.S. intelligence agencies, yet the country has always maintained that it is not supported by the Chinese government. 

How can we be hacking when we're getting hacked?  The Chinese Ministry of Defense statement reveals that it gets hacked too:

China is one of the main victims of cyber attacks. According to statistics, the Chinese armed forces access to the Internet user terminal suffered a large number of foreign attacks, [and] according to the IP address of the display, a considerable number of attack sources from the United States, but we did not [use this] a pretext to accuse the U.S. side.

Statistically speaking, China is claiming that in 2012 "about 73,000 overseas IP addresses controlled more than 14 million computers in China and 32,000 IP addresses remotely controlled 38,000 Chinese websites," reports Xinhua, which adds  that "[a]ttacks originating from the United States rank the first among overseas hackings in China." So what we here are basically pots and kettles are calling each other black, but last we checked, being a victim of a crime or transgression doesn't make that victim incapable of committing that same crime.

But What Is Hacking Anyway?  "There is still no internationally clear, unified definition of what constitutes a hacking attack," a spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense is quoted as saying in CNN's translation. As excuses come, saying that you're not breaking rules because said rules are undefined is a bit shaky and makes you sound guilty of something more than the "everyday gathering of online information is online spying." And the defense ministry's statement goes on to throw some cold water on Mandiant's report: "The report, in only relying on linking IP address to reach a conclusion the hacking attacks originated from China, lacks technical proof."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.