U.S. hacking victims fell prey to mundane ruses

FILE - This May 19, 2014 file photo shows Attorney General Eric Holder taking questions during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington where he announced that a U.S. grand jury has charged five Chinese hackers with economic espionage and trade secret theft. In a 31-count indictment, the Justice Department said five Chinese military officials operating under hacker aliases such as Ugly Gorilla, Show caption
FILE - This May 19, 2014 file photo shows Attorney General Eric Holder taking questions during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington where he announced that a U.S. grand jury has charged five Chinese hackers with economic espionage and trade secret theft. In a 31-count indictment, the Justice Department said five Chinese military officials operating under hacker aliases such as Ugly Gorilla, "KandyGoo" and "Jack Sun" stole confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage. The U.S. identified the alleged victims as Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse, Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld. China denied it all. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The victims of the alleged Chinese-backed hacking plot may have been their own worst enemies.

Some of the attacks that U.S. government officials say were undertaken by Chinese military officers relied upon mundane tactics to break into major American companies. They tricked employees into opening email attachments or clicking on innocent-looking website links that secretly installed malicious software.

Other security layers failed, too. More-effective antivirus or security software could have blocked the malicious attachments or prevented U.S. users from visiting risky web links. And intrusion-detection systems on corporate networks could have more quickly raised red flags after a successful break-in.

The Justice Department said Monday that the five military officials stole confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage. China strongly denies the allegations.