Integral part of China military?

Beijing is widely believed to have sponsored cyber-attacks against other countries. In May 2014, five members of the Chinese military’s cyber unit targeting the United States, known as Unit 61398, were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for stealing confidential information from major U.S. nuclear power and steel companies.

According to Japanese police authorities, the Chinese military’s Strategic Support Force, which was established as part of military reforms in 2015, is responsible for the cyber field. Unit 61419, which targets Japan and South Korea, is also a part of the force.

A hacker group known as Tick is believed to be an integral part of Unit 61419. Since the late 2000s, it has repeatedly launched cyber-attacks targeting sensitive information related to defense, aerospace and chemistry in Japan and South Korea.

According to information security firm Trend Micro Inc., Tick stole the email addresses of real Japanese research and PR firms and sent emails to several defense-related companies and others in the spring of 2019. The text was written in natural Japanese, and in some cases, the users were infected with computer viruses after they opened attached files.

Bonji Ohara, a senior fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation who is familiar with China’s security policy, said: “The fact that we were able to identify the people involved in the cyber-attack this time shows Japan’s defensive capabilities and is significant from the perspective of deterrence.

“The attacks are likely to continue in the future, so we need to strengthen the integrated monitoring system of the public and private sectors.”