Edward Snowden

Foreign Policy report lifts the lid on US cyberespionage of China

Magazine says highly secretive unit of NSA has penetrated mainland's networks for years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 3:40pm

An article in an influential political magazine has confirmed the Beijing government's long-held allegation that the US has for years been involved in cyber-espionage against China.

Published in Foreign Policy magazine and called "Inside the NSA's Ultra Secret Hacking Group", the story by Mathew Aid lifts the lid on the US's covert cyber operations in China. The US continually accuses China of cybercrime. However, senior Beijing officials accuse the US government of hypocrisy and allege Washington is also actively engaged in cyber-espionage.

"The Chinese government's allegations are essentially correct," the article reveals. "According to a number of confidential sources, a highly secretive unit of the National Security Agency (NSA), the US government's huge electronic eavesdropping organisation, called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going on inside China."

When the latest allegation of Chinese cyber-espionage was made last month, it alleged hackers employed by the Chinese military had stolen the blueprints of more than three dozen American weapons systems. The Chinese government's top internet official, Huang Chengqing, responded that Beijing possessed "mountains of data" showing the US has engaged in widespread hacking to steal Chinese government secrets.

Revelations about the NSA's Prism operation from former CIA undercover operative Edward Snowden have added fuel to Beijing's stance, and Foreign Policy's exposé confirms China's claims.

"According to former NSA officials … TAO's mission is simple. It collects intelligence information on foreign targets by surreptitiously hacking into their computers and telecommunications systems, and then copying all the messages and data traffic passing within the targeted e-mail and text-messaging systems," the story revealed.

"TAO is also responsible for developing the information that would allow the United States to destroy or damage foreign computer and telecommunications systems with a cyber attack if so directed by the president. TAO, sources say, is now the largest and arguably the most important component of the NSA's huge intelligence gathering network."