The U.S. Department of Justice has charged five Chinese Military Official with the charge of Cyber Espionage based on the hacking of US companies’ systems and the theft of their trade secrets. According to the Department of Justice (DoJ) Westinghouse Electric, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, U.S. Steel, the United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld were all victims of Chinese Military hacking.
The charges claim that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) officials (mostly Generals) cooperated to steal information from US companies and access proprietary information from those companies and use them for the benefit of Chinese companies. This has been an ongoing charge by the US Government and US companies that the Chinese have been hacking them and stealing their proprietary IP and information for use by Chinese companies or the Chinese military. There have been a multitude of US defense contractors charging the same thing on Chinese hackers, however, those companies were not involved or mentioned in this DoJ charge.
Ultimately, the Chinese Government is likely not doing anything any differently from how the NSA and the US Government are being claimed to be responsible for hacking. There have been claims that the NSA’s hacking of both US and foreign companies and governments has been passed to companies that are beneficial to certain US companies.
Honestly, the US Government really won’t be able to accomplish anything with these official hacking charges other than making their claims and complaints official. The reality of the situation is that China is the most populated country in the world and the second biggest economy in the world. Based on that simple fact alone, not much will happen to any Chinese officials especially if the Chinese government also makes these PLA officers diplomats in some form or another. There are a lot of ways that the DoJ could go after these guys but realistically these charges really wouldn’t be enforceable outside of the US. So, now, these military officers are going to just avoid travel to the US, even though considering the activities that they were already known for participating in.