U.S. Case Offers Glimpse Into China’s Hacker Army

Source: NYTimes

One man accused of being a hacker for the Chinese military, Wang Dong, better known as UglyGorilla, wrote in a social media profile that he did not “have much ambition” but wanted “to wander the world with a sword, an idiot.”

Another, Sun Kailiang, also known as Jack Sun, grew up in wealthy Pei County in eastern China, the home of a peasant who founded the ancient Han dynasty and was idolized by Mao.

They and three others were indicted by the United States Justice Department this week, charged with being part of a Chinese military unit that has hacked the computers of prominent American companies to steal commercial secrets, presumably for the benefit of Chinese companies.

Much about them remains murky. But Chinese websites, as well as interviews with cybersecurity experts and former hackers inside and outside China, reveal some common traits among those and other hackers, and show that China’s hacking culture is a complex mosaic of shifting motivations, employers and allegiances.

Many hackers working directly for the Chinese government are men in their 20s and 30s who have been trained at universities run by the People’s Liberation Army and are employed by the state in myriad ways. Those working directly for the military usually follow a 9-to-5 weekday schedule and are not well paid, experts and former hackers said. Some military and government employees moonlight as mercenaries and do more hacking on their own time, selling their skills to state-owned and private companies. Some belong to the same online social networking groups.

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