Security Experts:

China Claims "Mountains of Data" Pointing to U.S. Hacking

After months of accusations that China was backing extensive cyber-espionage operations against the United States, a top Internet security official in China said it had evidence of U.S. was attacking Chinese targets, too.

"We have mountains of data, if we wanted to accuse the U.S., but it's not helpful in solving the problem," said Huang Chengqing, director of the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China, known as CNCERT, told the government-run China Daily newspaper on Wednesday.

CNCERT, which issues a weekly report on cyber-attacks against China, claimed 4,062 U.S.-based computer servers hijacked 2.91 million mainframe computers in China, according to a Reuters report. The cyber-attacks against China from the U.S. are just as serious as the ones the U.S. is accusing China of, according to Huang.

These cyber-security concerns could be settled by communicating directly, instead of creating a confrontation using the news media, Huang suggested. "They advocated cases that they never let us know about," Huang said. "Some cases can be addressed if they had talked to us, why not let us know? It is not a constructive train of thought to solve problems."

According to the Reuters report, CNCERT has cooperated with the U.S. to address 32 Internet security cases in the first four months of 2013. While most were handled promptly, a few lacked sufficient proof, Huang said.

The question of hacking between the two countries is expected to be part of the agenda when President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California this week. Obama wants the Chinese government to take action to curb high-tech spying.

Former White House cybersecurity adviser Howard Schmidt believes cyber-attacks will just be one of a handful of key topics related to improving U.S.-China relations. Obama is not likely to offer a carrot, or brandish a stick, Schmidt said during a Q&A session with reporters at the Kaspersky Lab Government CyberSecurity Forum on Tuesday.

"It will be a very balanced approach. This is not the only issue with China he has to deal with," Schmidt said.

Chinese hackers have compromised designs of dozens of major U.S. weapons systems, the Washington Post reported recently, citing a confidential report prepared for the Department of Defense by the Defense Science Board. While Huang did not deny the report, he suggested the designs should not have been online in the first place.

"Even following the general principle of secret-keeping, it should not have been linked to the Internet," Huang said.

Cyber-attacks from China were hurting relations between the two countries, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilo warned last March. Obama wanted a better relationship with the country, he said.

China was willing to "have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community including the United States to maintain the security, openness and peace of the Internet," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. 

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Fahmida Y. Rashid is a Senior Contributing Writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.