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PLA Unit 61398 - China’s Nefarious Cyber Hackers

Unit 61398 is a group within China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) that has been linked to a wide range of cyber-attacks aimed directly at the United States for purposes of espionage.  The unit is said to be housed in a 12-story building near Shanghai containing thousands of cybersecurity professionals operating under direct government orders from the Chinese government. 

“This unit is one of the most prolific. The group is active and very aggressive,” according to Pierluigi Paganini, a cyber security expert and founder of Security Affairs, based in Italy.[1]

A groundbreaking report conducted by Mandiant in recent years had this to say about Unit 61398, which they identified as “APT1”. “In a State that rigorously monitors Internet use, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese Government is unaware of an attack group that operates from the Pudong New Area of Shanghai. The detection and awareness of APT1 is made even more probable by the sheer scale and sustainment of attacks that we have observed and documented in this report. Therefore, the most probable conclusion is that APT1 can wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign because it is acting with the full knowledge and cooperation of the government. Given the mission, resourcing, and location of PLA Unit 61398, we conclude that PLA Unit 61398 is APT1.”[2] 

[1] Adam Jourdan, China-U.S. cyber spying row turns spotlight back on shadowy Unit 61398, Accessed on March 28, 2020.

[2] Mandiant, APT1, Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units, Accessed on March 28, 2020.

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