Every once in a while, the cold cyberwar between the U.S. and China takes an unexpected turn. The Washington Post reported on Friday that Chinese authorities recently arrested several hackers at the request of the U.S. government. The arrests were allegedly made a few weeks before Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington last month.
The identities of the arrested individuals are unknown, but the Post claims the hackers were accused of state-sponsored economic espionage; they are believed to have stolen intellectual property by hacking the records of foreign companies on behalf of the Chinese government. The hackers were apparently not connected to the recent breach of millions of U.S. government records.
Another interesting thing to note: According to the Post, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have drawn up lists of individuals they want arrested in China, and have submitted them to the U.S. government. The fact that the government is making these demands, and that China appears to be complying with them, even if in a minimal way, suggests that the U.S. has a bit more leverage than it previously did–at least on the surface. Whether China will actually prosecute the hackers is a whole other issue; it’s possible the country only made the arrests to skirt the economic sanctions that President Obama was lording over China.
Meanwhile, the underlying issue for both countries remains the activities of private entities: Both China and the U.S. are full of hackers not affiliated with their government, who operate autonomously and could cause headaches down the road as each country struggles to create durable protocols for cyberwar.
[via Washington Post]