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U.S. says Chinese government behind cyberespionage

Annual report to Congress alleges a steady campaign of hacking designed to acquire information about the U.S. government's foreign policy and military plans.

Jared Kohler/CNET

The Chinese government and military have engaged in widespread cyberespionage targeting U.S. government and business computer networks, the Pentagon said Monday.

China maintained a steady campaign of computer intrusions in 2012 that were designed to acquire information about the U.S. government's foreign policy and military plans, according to the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on China's military.

"China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs," according to the 83-page 2013 "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" (PDF).

"In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military," the report said.

While U.S. officials have raised such allegations before, the tenor of the charges has been steadily increasing in recent months. Monday's report, which uses the strongest language yet in directly linking the Chinese government and military to hacking activity directed at the U.S. government, paints a picture of organization and resourcefulness.

"China continues to leverage foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, academic exchanges, the experience of repatriated Chinese students and researchers, and state-sponsored industrial and technical espionage to increase the level of technologies and expertise available to support military research, development, and acquisition," the report said.

In March, the Obama administration demanded that China end its "unprecedented" campaign of cyberespionage, warning that the hacking activity threatens to derail efforts to build stronger ties between the two countries.

A recent report alleged that an "overwhelming percentage " of cyberattacks on U.S. corporations, government agencies, and organizations originate from an office building on the outskirts of Shanghai that's connected to the People's Liberation Army. China has denied any involvement and condemned the report for lack of hard evidence.

After The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal earlier this year accused hackers in China of perpetrating months-long network breaches at the newspapers, a handful of companies revealed that they too have been victims of recent hackings, including Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.