Chinese cyberattacks are down, says FireEye report

Well, the next time a major cyberattack becomes public, we might need to blame someone else other than China.

That’s because a study done by Milpitas-based FireEye’s iSight division says the number of cyberattacks launched from China against Silicon Valley tech firms has dropped substantially over the last year. It was nine months ago that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the White House and said they would launch new efforts to reduce cyberattacks aimed at stealing intellectual property, particularly that of U.S. tech companies.

The iSight study found that that Chinese crackdown on cyberattacks appears to be part of Xi’s attempts to exert more control over China’s military, which itself is widely believed to be the source of most of the electronic intrusions of American tech company networks and systems. The report mentions a Chinese army group called Unit 61398 as the main culprit of the hacking attacks, and that the group’s member have likely been dispersed to other parts of the Chinese military and government.

While the amount of everyday attacks from China has decreased, iSight said American companies still see a number of network attacks on a daily basis, with semiconductor and aerospace companies among those dealing with the highest amount of cyber intrusions.

Still, questions remain about just how much cyberhacking China is doing against the U.S., and the purpose of such actions. Intelligence officials say it remains difficult to nail down the responsible parties because their activities have likely been moved from the Chinese military to the country’s intelligence departments, who then can claim they are working for China’s government as opposed to doing cybertheft on the part of Chinese companies that are looking for American corporate data and information.

Photo: An employee looks at the cyberthreat monitor at the executive briefing center at FireEye in Milpitas, in February 2015.  (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)


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