The report, citing two people briefed on the investigation, reported China had launched an intelligence-gathering campaign which included hacking into health insurance companies and hacking security clearance files of millions of people living in the U.S. The New York Times reported the hackers are believed to be employed by the Ministry of State Security, which is China’s spy agency. The paper noted that the revelation that China was behind the Marriott hack comes as the U.S. government is gearing up to launch actions against China’s trade that include indicting Chinese hackers that work for the government. The New York Times noted the Marriott hacking isn’t expected to be part of the indictments but does add a sense of urgency to the moves the White House was mulling.
The Trump administration is also planning on declassifying intelligence reports that show China had been trying to create a database of American executives and government officials that have security clearances, reported The New York Times. The Trump White House is also mulling an executive order that would make it more difficult for Chinese companies to get access to components that go into telecommunications equipment. The potential moves on the part of the White House come as there is a growing recognition that the trade truce that President Trump and President Xi Jinping reached in Buenos Aires may not do much to change the actions of China.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied China was behind the data breach at Marriott, telling The New York Times: “China firmly opposes all forms of cyberattack and cracks down on it in accordance with the law. If offered evidence, the relevant Chinese departments will carry out investigations according to the law.”