China is attacking secret surveillance programs of the US government with harsh words from its state-controlled press, accusing Cisco of helping the US in cyberespionage.
The criticisms come a week after the US indicted five Chinese military personnel for allegedly hacking into several US companies for trade secrets. It marks the first time the US has tried to criminally charge China for state-sponsored cyberattacks. But so far, the indictments have done more to damage relations between the two nations, compelling China to accuse the US of hypocrisy with its own spying programmes.
China hit back again Monday when state-controlled media released a government report about the "unscrupulous" US surveillance activities.
"These operations have flagrantly breached International laws," said the report, adding, "They deserve to be rejected and condemned by the whole world."
The government report, authored by China's Internet Media Research Centre, largely cited leaks from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, as well as articles written by foreign press groups. But it added that China had carried out its own investigation over several months and confirmed the spying activities.
The report claims that China has been the main target of US surveillance programmes. "Chinese government offices are a particular target of US spy operations," the report said, adding that local banks, telecommunication companies and schools have also suffered cyberattacks from the US.
China Youth Daily also published an editorial yesterday alleging that US networking gear supplier Cisco had aided the spying activities. While the company has helped build China's internet infrastructure, Cisco also deliberately installed backdoor surveillance tools into its equipment, the editorial said.
The company "has played a disgraceful role, becoming a pillar to help spread the US's power over the internet," it added.
The editorial demanded that all Cisco equipment be checked for security threats and that China create an organisation to inspect networking gear, especially imported products.
China is already moving in that direction. The government said last week that it would create a "vetting system" to check major IT products for security threats. Products that don't pass will be banned from the Chinese market.
Cisco sent a letter earlier this month to US President Barack Obama, asking that he work to restore trust in US technology sales. This came after reports that the National Security Agency intercepted telecommunication equipment from Cisco and others to plant surveillance tools inside.