China says US routinely hacks Defence Ministry websites

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Two major Chinese military websites, including that of the Defence Ministry, were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the United States, the ministry said on Thursday.

This month, a US computer security company said a secretive Chinese military unit was likely behind a series of hacking attacks mostly targeting the United States, setting off a war of words between Washington and Beijing.

China denied the allegations and said it was the victim.

It has now provided some details for the first time of the alleged attacks from the US.

"The Defence Ministry and China Military Online websites have faced a serious threat from hacking attacks since they were established, and the number of hacks has risen steadily in recent years," said ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng.

"According to the IP addresses, the Defence Ministry and China Military Online websites were, in 2012, hacked on average from overseas 144,000 times a month, of which attacks from the US accounted for 62.9 per cent," he said.

The comments were made at a monthly news conference, which foreign reporters are not allowed to attend, and posted on the ministry's website.

Geng said he had noted reports that the US planned to expand its cyber-warfare capability but that they were unhelpful to increasing international cooperation towards fighting hacking.

"We hope that the US side can explain and clarify this." The US security company, Mandiant, identified the People's Liberation Army's Shanghai-based Unit 61398 as the most likely driving force behind the hacking. Mandiant said it believed the unit had carried out "sustained" attacks on a wide range of industries.

The hacking dispute adds to diplomatic tension between China and the US, already strained by Chinese suspicion about Washington's "pivot" back to Asia and arguments over issues from trade to human rights.