"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 Mandiant report said, concluding that the only way the group could function is with the "full knowledge and cooperation" of the Beijing government.
The unit "has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations," Mandiant wrote. A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. The new iPhone 5, for example, has 16 gigabytes of space, while the more expensive iPads have as much as 64 gigabytes of space. The U.S. Library of Congress' 2006-2010 Twitter archive of about 170 billion tweets totals 133.2 terabytes.
"At some point we do have to call the Chinese out on this," said Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush and now chairman of the Chertoff Group, a global security firm. "Simply rolling over and averting our eyes, I don't think is a long-term strategy."
Richard Bejtlich, the chief security officer at Mandiant, said the company decided to make its report public in part to help send a message to both the Chinese and U.S. governments.
"At the government level, I see this as a tool that they can use to have discussions with the Chinese, with allies, with others who are concerned about this problem and have an open dialogue without having to worry about sensitivities around disclosing classified information," Bejtlich said. "This problem is overclassified."
He said the release of an unclassified report that provides detailed evidence will allow authorities to have an open discussion about what to do.
Mandiant's report is filled with high-tech details and juicy nuggets that led to its conclusion, including the code names of some of the hackers, like Ugly Gorilla, Dota and SuperHard, and that Dota appears to be a fan of Harry Potter because references to the book and movie character appear as answers to his computer security questions.