The United States has taken aim against five Chinese military officials who it's set to charge with hacking offences.
The US Justice Department has made the bold move, with the officials in question alleged to have hacked into private companies in the States, in order to steal trade secrets. According to the Wall Street Journal, Attorney General Eric Holder will announce the charges, and we should be hearing that official announcement imminently.
In the field of cyber-espionage, this is the first time that the US government has actually levelled accusations of cyber-crime against officials of a foreign nation.
The five individuals reportedly worked for a division of the People's Liberation Army known as Unit 61398 based in Shanghai, and they're alleged to have stolen a good deal of sensitive information, including data pertaining to the design of a nuclear power plant.
Obviously this is a matter the US is taking very seriously. However, while the accusation levelled against foreign officials might be breaking new ground, the cyber-conflict between the US and China has been running for a long time now.
China has been angered in the past by American accusations of hacks orchestrated by the regime, targeting defence systems and major corporations in the US, which it denies any involvement in. Moreover, China has slung mud back at the US, and accused America of the same type of attacks (indeed, a report from Imperva last summer pegged the US as the number one source of cyber-attacks – though the security firm did note that the data was somewhat skewed due to the pure volume of Internet traffic from the States, anyway).
You'd have to be pretty naïve not to think that behind the curtains of every great power, there's a good deal of cyber-shenanigans (that's the official term, by the way) going on, one way or another.
What happens next, we shall see – but let's say it's not too likely that the Chinese are going to be packing said officials off to face justice in America.