Washington is applying double standards by developing new technology to attack foreign databases — even if the computers are not connected to the Internet — while playing up cyberthreats from others, China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks in response to a New York Times report published on Tuesday that gave details of the US spyware, which reportedly set the Chinese military as a major target.
"For some time, the relevant country has on one hand played up the cyberthreats from other countries, and on the other hand used various methods to implement cyber surveillance endangering the sovereignty, security and public privacy of other countries," Hong said.
He said China and Russia have proposed to the United Nations the setting up of a global standard on information security.
The spokesman called on the US to "work with the international community to create international regulations and build a peaceful, safe, open and cooperative cyberspace".
"The United States is the country which has made the most accusations about cyberattacks from other countries, but it, indeed, conducted the most surveillance on others," said Fan Jishe, a expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Washington has long accused the Chinese military of attacking and spying on US computers, without providing strong proof. The blame turned ironic when US National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposed the country's massive cyber spying program around the globe last year, with China listed among its major targets.
The New York Time's report on Tuesday said the NSA has embedded software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world to carry out surveillance.
The article, citing NSA documents, computer experts and US officials, said the agency has used a technology since at least 2008, which relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers, to conduct surveillance.
The equipment can also launch cyberattacks.
The agency calls the effort an "active defense", said the report.
Fan noted that the US not only tapped countries like Cold War rivals Russia and China, but also spied on its allies in Europe.
The NSA has used the technology to monitor foreign militaries, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union and sometime US partners against terrorism such as Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, the New York Times reported.
Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said US spies using radio waves to collect information from computers that are not linked to the Internet have to be in close proximity to receive the information.
He warned that "any people trying to take such actions around a Chinese government or Chinese army complex" would be breaking Chinese law.
Cherian Samuel, a cybersecurity expert at New Delhi's Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, said, "If it had been any other country doing this kind of thing, the US would have come down on them like a ton of bricks with punitive sanctions," according to the Associated Press.
James Andrew Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the New York Times, "What's new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency's ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before.
"Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the US a window it's never had before."