Canadian government says Chinese hackers infiltrated top research and development organization

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Chinese hackers infiltrated the computer systems of Canada's top research and development organization, the Canadian government said Tuesday.

Canada's Treasury Board said a "highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" hacked into the National Research Council, which partners its scientists, engineers and business experts with private industry to bring new technologies to market.

Adam Hodge, a spokesman for Canadian foreign minister John Baird, said Baird discussed the matter with his counterpart while in Beijing on Tuesday and had a "full and rank exchange of views on the matter." Baird is in Asia on a trade mission.

"The government takes this issue very seriously and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa," Hodge said.

The Canadian government said NRC's computers have been isolated from the rest of the government's systems as a precaution. The government said one of Canada's spy agencies, the Communications Security Establishment, detected and confirmed the cyberattack.

The NRC said it would not release further information, citing security and confidentiality reasons. However, it planned to provide an update by Thursday.

China has often been accused of spying. Last December, a Canadian man was arrested for allegedly trying to sell classified information to the Chinese government about Canada's warship building procurement strategy.

Police said the suspect worked for Lloyd Register, a ship design sub-contractor to Irving Shipbuilding. Authorities said the classified information relates to Canada's strategy on building patrol ships, frigates, naval auxiliary vessels, science research vessels and ice breakers.

In May, the U.S. accused China of vast business spying and charged five military officials with hacking into U.S. companies to steal vital trade secrets. The Chinese targeted big-name American makers of nuclear and solar technology, stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage, according to a grand jury indictment. China denied the charges.