Chinese hackers have continued to attack American companies, according to security firm CrowdStrike, despite a so-called cyber peace agreement between the US and Chinese governments.
The agreement announced on 25 September said that neither superpower would engage in cyber actions against the other and would "never knowingly" support the theft of intellectual property.
However, security experts at CrowdStrike have found evidence to suggest that China's hacking operations have continued to attempt to penetrate US networks.
"Over the last three weeks [CrowdStrike] has detected and prevented a number of intrusions into our customers' systems from actors we have affiliated with the Chinese government," wrote Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike co-founder, in a blog post.
The analysis suggests that seven of the affected firms are in the technology and pharmaceuticals sectors.
"The primary benefit of the intrusions seems clearly aligned to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional national security-related intelligence collection which the cyber agreement does not prohibit," said Alperovitch.
"The intrusion attempts are continuing to this day, with many of the China-affiliated actors persistently attempting to regain access to victim networks even in the face of repeated failures."
The analysis further indicates that hacking collective Deep Panda was involved in the attacks, a notorious group long blamed for cyber attacks on commercial industries such as financial, healthcare and insurance.
A CrowdStrike infographic (below) shows that one intrusion occurred on 26 September, only a day after the cyber agreement was announced.
An unnamed senior Obama administration officer told Reuters that the US government is aware of the CrowdStrike findings.
"As we move forward, we will monitor China's cyber activities closely and press China to abide by all of its commitments," said the official.
Tensions were running high prior to the agreement. US president Barack Obama warned the Chinese government that attacks on US computer networks are "not acceptable" and that his administration will treat such attacks as a "core national security threat".
However, not everyone is convinced of the cyber agreement's ability to curb Chinese hacking.
Former FBI tech expert Leo Taddeo, who headed up the New York cyber division, told V3 following the agreement that Chinese attacks will only get worse.
"I think that both countries will continue to talk about it, but the fact is that it serves the Chinese interest to target [US] networks," he said.
"We will continue to see better techniques. We may see a higher level of hacker coming at our networks, someone who isn't as noisy, someone who isn't as easy to detect, but we will not see a reduction in Chinese efforts to gain a competitive advantage using cyber tools."
A Chinese delegation is visiting the UK, and top Chinese diplomat Liu Xiaoming said that Britain has "nothing to fear" despite MI5 currently listing "Russian and Chinese intelligence activities" as a major cyber concern.
Liu said ahead of a state visit by president Xi Jinping that China is "a peace-loving country".
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