Cyber sell-out? Obama administration ‘agrees’ massive hack of OPM database NOT sponsored by Chinese government

( It seems incredulous to many cyber security and intelligence experts who have long known that the Chinese government regularly hacks into American government and corporate systems, but if Beijing’s state-run media is to be believed, the Obama administration has formally discounted reports that the recent hack of Office of Personnel Management files was not officially sanctioned by China.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media service, said last week that Beijing told U.S. officials during recent cyber security talks that the theft of millions of sensitive government employee records was not sponsored by the Chinese government but rather the result of criminal activity.

As the WFB further reported:

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday that the Obama administration agreed during high-level talks on cyber security held in Washington that the Office of Personnel Management hacking was a criminal activity.

During the talks, the two sides discussed the OPM hack. “Through investigation, the case turned out to be a criminal case rather than a state-sponsored cyber attack as the U.S. side has previously suspected,” Xinhua said.

The WFB contacted officials at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security but they declined to comment on the Xinhua report.

However, the Justice Department issued a statement Dec. 2 stating that the U.S. and China talked about enhancing cyber security cooperation “within the bounds of each nation’s legal framework,” and that officials also discussed “cases” that had been identified earlier.

The Xinhua report seems odd, given that, in recent days, the State Department released a report stating that China would continue to hack U.S. corporations and conduct other cyberespionage, as reported.

The Overseas Security Advisory Council reported that the large-scale hacking operations conducted by China are not limited to theft of data from government systems like the Office of Personnel Management, in which millions of records of current and past federal employees were accessed and likely stolen.

Rather, the council said, China’s hacking is part of a much wider trend, with an estimated 80 percent of all hacking targeting Americans originating in China. Despite the recent agreement between Washington and Beijing, “threats to [intellectual property] are unlikely to disappear soon,” the report said.

There are additional reasons to question the Obama administration’s intentions and the Xinhua report.

As noted by the WFB, the claim that the OPM hack was not state-sponsored came amid the first round of scheduled U.S.-China talks between Chinese State Concilor and Ministor of Public Security Guo Shengkun, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Guo “is a senior security official who in the early part of last decade headed” Chinalco, a state-run aluminum company that was received stolen trade secrets “by Chinese military hackers who were indicated last year for breaking into networks of the U.S. company Alcoa,” the WFB reported.

Also, U.S. officials have said that forensic analyses of the OPM hack revealed that there were clear links to the Chinese military and civilian cyber warfare units that have been known in the past to conduct such attacks.

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See also:

Washington Free Beacon

The New York Times




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