Despite agreements and arrests, China continues hacking away at American systems

( It was just last month that Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged during a state visit to the U.S. that he would ensure hacking of U.S. government, military and private sector computer systems would be curbed.

In recent days, the Chinese government has even made some arrests of hackers suspected of attacking U.S. systems.

But now, according to a new report, it appears as though cybersecurity experts who said they did not believe China would ever get serious about ending cyber probes and attacks against the U.S. government, especially, have been proven correct.

As reported by The Washington Post, hackers operating on behalf of Beijing have tried to penetrate the networks of U.S. companies within the past few weeks in a bid to steal their secrets, despite Xi’s promise, private researchers told the paper.

The paper said that Chinese hackers have launched attacks against at least seven companies in the U.S. since Xi promised last month that his country would not conduct economic cyber espionage in an attempt to steal trade secrets and other intellectual properties to the benefit of Chinese companies, according to CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that also helps companies track hacks.

The Post said that in the few weeks since Xi left Washington — including the day after he left, on Sept. 26 — hackers linked to the Chinese government have attempted to gain access to tech and pharmaceutical companies’ networks, according to Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike co-founder and chief technology officer, who released a report on the issue Sept. 19.

Those efforts are ongoing and can occur several times a days. Also, Alperovitch said, the cyber probes appear distinct from traditional intelligence collection, which is not covered under the U.S.—China cyber agreement.

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In addition, the U.S. intelligence community noted that its analysts continue to see signs of economic cyber espionage emanating from Chinese hackers, one U.S. official who spoke anonymously to the Post noted. What that means at this point, however, is unclear, the Post reported.

A senior military cyber defense official told the paper recently that a cessation of Chinese cyber espionage, to the extent it even occurs, would take place over time.

“I think it’s too early for any of us to see any of those changes,” said the U.S. Cyber Command’s deputy commander, Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Oct. 9.

When he was in Washington for his state visit, Xi met with President Obama, pledging that China would not “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.”

Obama responded that China must now follow through. “The question now is, are words followed by actions?” he said.

The Post said the White House would not comment on the CrowdStrike findings.

“As we move forward, we will monitor China’s cyber-activities closely and press China to abide by all of its commitments,” one official, who requested anonymity, said.

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