by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a landmark case alleging international economic spying, the United States announced on Monday unprecedented cyber espionage charges against five Chinese military officials accused of hacking into U.S. companies to gain trade secrets.
The hackers targeted big-name makers of nuclear and solar technology, stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage, according to a grand jury indictment.
"Success in the international marketplace should be based solely on a company's ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government's ability to spy and steal business secrets," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference.
The alleged targets are Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric Co., Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel Corp., the United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld. The indictment, which includes charges of trade-secret theft and economic espionage, was issued in Pittsburgh, where most of the companies are based.
The charges dramatize a longtime Obama administration goal to prosecute state-sponsored cyber threats, which U.S. officials say they have grappled with for years. A recent government report said that more than 40 Pentagon weapons programs and nearly 30 other defense technologies have been compromised by cyber intrusions from China.
Franz-Stefan Gady, Senior Fellow, EastWest Institute, an international think tank focusing on international conflict resolution. He’s a also founding member of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative at the institute.