By Mintimer Avila |Online Editor|
The U.S. is considering blocking Chinese officials from attending hacking conferences after five officials from the People’s Liberation Army of China were charged with stealing trade secrets from various companies.
The U.S. Department of Justice believes that sensitive business information from electrical and metal engineering companies was stolen to give Chinese state-owned companies a competitive advantage.
ABC News reported that the company, U.S. Steel, suffered a major plunge in profits after the hackers managed to steal information on manufacturing cheaper steel. This also resulted in employee layoffs and production cuts.
“This Administration will not tolerate actions by any nation that seeks to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Washington is proposing visa restrictions on Chinese computer experts to prevent them from attending hacking conferences such as Def Con and Black Hat.
Attendees include computer security professionals, journalists, lawyers, federal government employees, and hackers.
A senior administration official said these actions are a part of a broader effort to curb Chinese cyber espionage.
China denies any charges saying they were “made up,” and that they are equally the victim of similar breaches, according to Reuters.
Jess Moss, founder of both Def Con and Black Hat, tweeted that he was not aware of these efforts proposed by the government but stated, “I don’t think it helps build positive community.”
Members of the hacking community also took to Twitter to weigh in on the situation.
“Racism by the U.S.: No Chinese people allowed at Defcon,” tweeted Valdes Nzalli.
“Something tells me that the Chinese hackers who the U.S. government are worried about don’t go to Def Con anyways,” tweeted Steve Manzuik.
Preventing Chinese persons from attending these events would prove difficult because of their strict privacy concerns.
Attendees are required to pay in cash and do not need to reveal their legal names, which makes it difficult to track down people who attend these conferences.
However, 10 to 12 Chinese citizens were unexpectedly denied visas to attend a space and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation in Colorado.
DVDs and video clips of speakers are available on their websites making it easy for anyone to attend without physically being present.
“We’ve tried to have a constructive dialogue. The State Department and the Defense Department have traveled to China to share evidence of hacking by the (People’s Liberation Army), but those types of interchanges have not sparked a lot of progress or reciprocity,” said an official who was unauthorized to speak publicly.
The visa restrictions also mentioned releasing new evidence about the alleged hacking to further increase pressure on China, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A total of 31 charges were filed, making it the first time the U.S. has officially accused another nation of economic espionage.