Nine months after President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China agreed to a broad crackdown on cyberespionage aimed at curbing the theft of intellectual property, the first detailed study of Chinese hacking has found a sharp drop-off in almost daily raids on Silicon Valley firms, military contractors and other commercial targets.
But the study, conducted by the iSight intelligence unit of FireEye, a company that manages large network breaches, also concluded that the drop-off began a year before Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi announced their accord in the White House Rose Garden. In a conclusion that is largely echoed by American intelligence officials, the study said the change is part of Mr. Xi’s broad effort to bring the Chinese military, which is considered one of the main sponsors of the attacks, further under his control.
As a result, the same political forces that may be alleviating the theft of data from American companies are also responsible for Mr. Xi’s stunningly swift crackdown on the Chinese media, bloggers and others who could challenge the Communist Party.
“It’s a mixed bag,” said Kevin Mandia, the founder of Mandiant, now part of FireEye, which first detailed the activities of a People’s Liberation Army cyber-arm, called Unit 61398, that had been responsible for some of the most highly publicized thefts of American technology. “We still see semiconductor companies and aerospace firms attacked.”
But the daily barrage of attacks has diminished, which Mr. Mandia attributed to “public pressure” from, among others, the Justice Department’s decision to indict five members of the P.L.A. unit about a year after its activities were exposed.
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