Security group suspects Chinese military is behind hacking attacks
by Ben Blanchard and Joseph Menn
A secretive Chinese military unit is believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks, a U.S. computer security company said, prompting a strong denial by China and accusations that it was in fact the victim of U.S. hacking.
The 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 nature of 'Unit 61398's' work is considered by China to be a state secret; however, we believe it engages in harmful 'Computer Network Operations'," Mandiant said in a report released in the United States on Monday.
"It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat that threat effectively," it said. China's Defense Ministry issued a flat denial of the accusations and called them "unprofessional". It said hacking attacks are a global problem and that China is one of world's biggest victims of cyber assaults. "The Chinese army has never supported any hacking activity," the Defense Ministry said in a brief faxed statement to Reuters. "Statements about the Chinese army engaging in cyber attacks are unprofessional and not in line with facts."
Unit 61398 is located in Shanghai's Pudong district, China's financial and banking hub, and is staffed by perhaps thousands of people proficient in English as well as computer programming and network operations, Mandiant said in its report.
The unit had stolen "hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations across a diverse set of industries beginning as early as 2006", it said. Most of the victims were located in the United States, with smaller numbers in Canada and Britain.
The information stolen ranged from details on mergers and acquisitions to the emails of senior employees, the company said. The 12-story building, which houses the unit, sits in an unassuming residential area and is surrounded by a wall adorned with military propaganda photos and slogans; outside the gate a sign warns members of the public they are in a restricted military area and should not take pictures.
There were no obvious signs of extra security on Tuesday. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the government firmly opposed hacking, adding that it doubted the evidence provided in the U.S. security group's report.
"Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous. Determining their origins are extremely difficult. We don't know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable," spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
"Arbitrary criticism based on rudimentary data is irresponsible, unprofessional and not helpful in resolving the issue." Hong cited a Chinese study which pointed to the United States as being behind hacking in China. "Of the above mentioned Internet hacking attacks, attacks originating from the United States rank first."
"Economic Cyber Espionage"
Some experts said they doubted Chinese government denials.
"The PLA plays a key role in China's multi-faceted security strategy, so it makes sense that its resources would be used to facilitate economic cyber espionage that helps the Chinese economy," said Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer and co-founder of CrowdStrike, one of Mandiant's competitors.
Though privately held and little known to the general public, Mandiant is one of a handful of U.S. cyber-security companies that specialize in attempting to detect, prevent and trace the most advanced hacking attacks, instead of the garden-variety viruses and criminal intrusions that befoul corporate networks on a daily basis.
But Mandiant does not promote its analysis in public and only rarely issues topical papers about changes in techniques or behaviors.
It has never before given the apparent proper names of suspected hackers or directly tied them to a military branch of the Chinese government, giving the new report special resonance. The company published details of the attack programs and dummy websites used to infiltrate U.S. companies, typically via deceptive emails.
U.S. officials have complained in the past to China about sanctioned trade-secret theft, but have had a limited public record to point to. Mandiant said it knew the PLA would shift tactics and programs in response to its report but concluded that the disclosure was worth it because of the scale of the harm and the ability of China to issue denials in the past and duck accountability. The company traced Unit 61398's presence on the Internet - including registration data for a question-and-answer session with a Chinese professor and numeric Internet addresses within a block assigned to the PLA unit -- and concluded that it was a major contributor to operations against the U.S. companies.
Members of Congress and intelligence authorities in the United States have publicized the same general conclusions: that economic espionage is an official mission of the PLA and other elements of the Chinese government, and that hacking is a primary method.
In November 2011, the U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive publicly decried China in particular as the biggest known thief of U.S. trade secrets. The Mandiant report comes a week after U.S. President Barack Obama issued a long-awaited executive order aimed at getting the private owners of power plants and other critical infrastructure to share data on attacks with officials and to begin to follow consensus best practices on security.
Both U.S. Democrats and Republicans have said more powerful legislation is needed, citing Chinese penetration not just of the largest companies but of operations essential to a functioning country, including those comprising the electric grid.
Beck: LAPD wants $1.2M Dorner reward paid, will make reinvestigation public
by Eric Hartley
The $1.2 million reward offered for Christopher Dorner's capture should be paid out despite his death, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.
The public called in more than 1,000 tips to a police hotline, most of them after the reward was offered.
"It had its desired effect. It should be paid out," the chief said during a press conference at LAPD headquarters downtown.
He said department officials will meet with people involved and make sure the money is fairly distributed. But Beck said he doesn't know how long that will take.
The task is complicated by the number of governments and private citizens who contributed to the reward fund. Some municipalities have limitations on such reward payments.
Beck also said an internal reinvestigation of the Dorner case will be made public within a few months.
He said the department will address the Dorner case and issues raised in his manifesto with "transparency."
Beck said the LAPD needs to protect hard-earned improvements in its public reputation and relationship with minorities.
Dorner, a former LAPD officer who was fired in 2009 for making false allegations against another officer, threatened to kill LAPD officers and their families in an online rant.
Dorner, who was black, wrote that the department is beset by racial problems and has not changed since the Rodney King and Rampart scandals.
Beck said he does not believe that, but that the LAPD needs to reassure the people it protects.
"We are only as good as the public thinks we are," Beck said.
He added, "If we don't have public confidence, I can't provide public safety."
Apply now for Cass County Community Policing scholarship
CASSOPOLIS, Mich. Cass County Community Policing Scholarship Applications are available. Now in its 17th year, the program gives law enforcement the opportunity to work with local businesses, citizens and youth in offering eight $500 scholarships to local students. The money for these scholarships is a direct result of the annual golf outing supported by local businesses and citizens.
Criteria to be eligible for the scholarship includes being a resident of Cassopolis County, a high school senior of a Cassopolis County high school or Brandywine, Constantine, Decatur, Niles or White Pigeon high school or college freshmen, planning to attend or currently attending a college or university in the state of Michigan and a minimum grade point average of 2.5.
Scholarship applications can be picked up at the high school guidance offices, requested at the Sheriff's Office or by calling 269-445-1201 for an application to be mailed to the student.
All completed applications must be received at the Sheriff's Office by April 10.
Adult literacy program thrives in New Providence
263 students served since beginning of fiscal year
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. For many people, it would be tempting to just give up if they were presented with the adversity Thomas Rugante is facing.
He's unemployed with two young sons at home, but his strained back disqualifies him from manual labor jobs, and without a high school diploma, it is nearly impossible to get non-physical work.
But after the New Providence Community Policing Center moved into his neighborhood and brought an adult literacy program with it, Rugante, 31, decided it was time to fill his education gap.
I can make excuses not to come... but excuses are done with. I'm done making excuses, Regante said. I need to be a man, to step up, time to grow up.
Regante is taking advantage of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Adult Literacy Council's tutoring program at the New Providence Community Policing Center.
The community policing center, and the literacy council's location in it, is funded by a 3-year, $1.2 million grant from the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs.
The grant funds a variety of programs at the center, and unlike traditional policing grants, it aims to prevent crime and rehabilitate people in addition to enforcing laws, according to Lt. Steve Warren of the Clarksville Police Department.
This is a much more realistic grant that attacks the root causes of crime and not just the criminals, Warren said.
I like to describe it as having a full toolbox. The last time we attacked this place, the only tool we had in our toolbox was handcuffs.
The community police center is just one of 11 locations that the Clarksville-Montgomery County Adult Literacy Council runs throughout the county. The council, founded in 1985, is primarily funded through United Way but receives secondary funding from a variety of sources.
Velmo Jo Williams, executive director for the council, said that the New Providence location has been extremely successful because of its proximity to the low-income neighborhood.
It's been a very productive service for the community in New Providence, Williams said.
Prospective pupils are given a screening test that places them at a grade level and gives Williams data to construct a teaching plan a task she completes for every student.
The council has served 263 students since their fiscal year started in July of last year.
The literacy programs are taught by volunteer tutors that are trained and then matched, by Williams, with compatible students.
Fatima Barrett, Rugante's tutor, said she was driven towards adult education after she learned her grandmother was illiterate.
It breaks my heart to know that my grandmother couldn't read. To me, it's such a disability, just like a person that can't see or can't walk, Barrett said.
To not be able to read is like the world is closed up
to all types of opportunities.
Rugante said that if he completes the literacy program and then successfully passes a GED test, he would be the first of his siblings to get a high school diploma.
I'll be the first son with a piece of paper saying I'm smart enough, Rugante said. It'll make Momma proud.