U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces indictments against Chinese military hackers on cyber-espionage as David Hickton, U.S. attorney for Western District of Pennsylvania listens. A Pennsylvania grand jury has indicted five Chinese military hackers for economic espionage and other offenses directed at the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US Files First Charges on Hacking, Infuriating China

May 19, 2014
The U.S. has charged five members of a Chinese military unit with hacking U.S. companies for trade secrets, infuriating Beijing, which suspended cooperation on cyber issues.

WASHINGTON -- The United States on Monday charged five members of a shadowy Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking U.S. companies for trade secrets, infuriating Beijing, which suspended cooperation on cyber issues.

Hacking has long been a major sticking point in relations between the world's two largest economies, but Washington's move marked a major escalation in the dispute.

In the first-ever prosecution of state actors over cyber-espionage, a federal grand jury indicted the five on charges that they broke into U.S. computers to benefit Chinese state-owned companies, leading to job losses in the United States in steel, solar and other industries.

Attorney General Eric Holder called on China to hand over the five men for trial in the steel city of Pittsburgh and said the United States would use "all the means that are available to us" should Beijing refuse.

The indictment said that victims also included industry titans Alcoa (IW 500/53) and U.S. Steel (IW 500/62), as well as the United Steelworkers labor union.

Officials declined to put a financial cost on the hacking. A report led by former U.S. officials estimated last year that cyber espionage -- overwhelmingly by China -- was costing the U.S. economy more than $300 billion each year, equivalent to what the United States sells each year to Asia.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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