Chinese Hackers Busy Collecting Digital Intelligence Despite Digital Truce With The United StatesFlags of the United States and China in Beijing (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

A digital truce between the United States and China that has prohibited hacking private companies to steal trade secrets hasn’t stopped Chinese state-sponsored hackers from gathering what is called defence intelligence, which supposedly falls outside the purview of the accord.

Recently, Chinese hackers have allegedly breached a US Navy contractor that works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, stealing 614 GB of data about submarine and undersea weapons technology. Attacks originating from China have also targeted US satellite and geospatial imaging firms, and many telecoms.

China has exercised some restraint on intellectual property theft, said says David Kennedy, CEO of the threat tracking firm Binary Defense Systems, but has been persistently targeting anything that involves the US’s ability to keep a cyber or military edge”.

And hacking is mutual, according to him. "…US does the same thing, by the way,” said Kennedy, who formerly worked at the NSA and with the Marine Corps' signal intelligence unit.

“'They'll use that as a first step instead of having to send fighter jets or something.”

Chinese hacking efforts follow a pattern. "China will continue to use cyberespionage and bolster cyberattack capabilities to support [its] national security priorities," US director of national intelligence Daniel Coats had said.

Analysts from Symantec found evidence of intrusions at some southeast Asian telecom firms, a US geospatial imagery company, a couple of private satellite companies including one from the US, and a US defence contractor. The breaches were all deliberate and targeted.

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