WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — The U.S. accused Chinese military officials of hacking into several U.S. enterprises, including Westinghouse and U.S. Steel, to steal "significant" amounts of trade secrets and intellectual property in an indictment made public Monday.
It is the first time the U.S. has charged a state actor in a criminal cyber espionage case.
The Chinese hackers, using military and intelligence resources, downloaded massive amounts of industrial information, including strategic plans, from U.S. businesses, the indictment said. In addition to Westinghouse and U.S. Steel, victims included Solar World, United Steel Workers Union and Alcoa.
The indictment, out of western Pennsylvania, charges five military "hackers" with directing a conspiracy to steal information from six American companies in critical industries, including nuclear power, solar power and metals.
Attorney General Eric Holder called it a case of "economic espionage."
The case "represents the first ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking," Holder said. "The range of trade secrets and other sensitive business information stolen in this case is significant and demands an aggressive response."