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Sharp dip in China based hackings

According to a new report from a prominent cybersecurity firm hired to investigate breaches, Chinese hacking of U.S. government and corporat...


According to a new report from a prominent cybersecurity firm hired to investigate breaches, Chinese hacking of U.S. government and corporate networks and other countries has sharply declined since 2014

Hackers operating out of China were linked to between 50 and 70 incidents that the cybersecurity company FireEye Inc. was investigating on a monthly basis in 2013 and the early part of 2014. Starting in October 2015, however, this tally dropped below 10 incidents and hasn't recovered. FireEye observed only a handful of network intrusions attributed to Chinese groups in April of this year.

FireEye rival CrowdStrike Inc. says that it, too, has noticed a drop in China-based hacking incidents. Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch said the decline may be accounted to sweeping reorganization of China’s military, announced earlier this year.

The shift is likely the result of a confluence of factors, including public scrutiny and pressure from the U.S. government but it is not solely the result of a September anti-hacking pledge struck by President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Chinese military hackers attempted to steal troves of confidential information from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2014 and failed. But China got the data anyway. It passed the job to contractors -- a group code-named Coldcuts by the U.S. -- who worked on their own or for private companies to conduct a dragnet for sensitive data from government, airlines and health insurers.
The new information about those incursions, confirmed by two people involved in the investigation who asked not to be identified because the details remain confidential.
When China’s expansive hacking operations began to come into the public eye, the U.S. was able to muster the political support to confront China directly on its cyber espionage tactics — indicting five Chinese military officers in 2014 on charges of stealing trade secrets and striking the anti-hacking pledge. None of those charged has appeared in the U.S.
That’s a success for the Obama administration and September deal is thought to be the reason behind it but researchers found that the drop was noticed before the deal was made.
Military reforms within the Chinese government also played a role. Since taking power in late 2012, Xi has implemented a series of significant military reforms aimed at centralizing China’s cyber elements that may also be a factor.
Ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2015, news leaked that President Barack Obama was considering sanctions against Chinese companies that benefited from hacking. China’s top security czar flew to Washington to hammer out an agreement, later announced by the two presidents, that China would stop supporting cyberespionage for commercial purposes.
Though Chinese hackers are still targeting some private-sector U.S. firms but that data could be used both for military applications and commercial ones. This suggests that the intrusions could be traditional intelligence-gathering, which is not prohibited by the September agreement.
But it seems the battle may be moving to another front.

That shift makes the question over whether China is keeping a promise that it won’t hack U.S. companies for technology and personal data a challenge to answer or is it turning the battle to another front.

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