The U.S. plans to "keep up the pressure" on China as it gauges that nation's response to this week's indictment of five Chinese military officials for allegedly hacking into American corporate computers, a senior administration official said Friday.
If China doesn't begin to acknowledge and curb its corporate cyberespionage, the U.S. plans to start selecting from a range of retaliatory options, other officials said.
They include releasing additional evidence about how the hackers allegedly conducted their operations, and imposing visa, business and financial restrictions on those indicted or people or organizations associated with them.
Beyond that, some officials are advocating more stealthy moves. These could include the government working with a U.S. company that has been breached to feed hackers bad data, said one person familiar with the discussions.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the charges Monday, alleging the five men hacked into five U.S. companies, including Alcoa Inc. and U.S. Steel Corp. X, as well as the United Steelworkers union, to take sensitive information. U.S. officials said they expected the Chinese would strike back.
But so far, China's response has been fairly restrained: denying the accusations, canceling the nation's participation in cybersecurity talks and signaling that U.S. technology companies may face greater scrutiny in trying to do business in China.
A senior administration official said the Chinese response is as expected, and the U.S. will tie any retaliation to Beijing's longer-term reaction.
"It has to be calibrated some to what the Chinese government chooses to do," the senior administration official said. "This is a long-term process."