HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The indictments of five Chinese military officials accused of hacking into U.S. companies to gain trade secrets is sending shockwaves through the cyber security community and impacting an upcoming North Alabama cyber security summit.
The North Alabama Cyber Security Summit will be held June 4 with hundreds already signed up to attend. Organizers said they will have to include Monday's indictments as a topic during that event because of its impact.
Ben McGee is helping organize this year's summit. He said for the U.S. to formally come out and indict the Chinese officials is a game-changer. It is likely the first criminal complaint ever filed against the Chinese government for this type of crime by the U.S.
The Chinese are calling the Justice Department's allegations "extremely absurd" and are accusing the U.S., in turn, of spying on China.
Cyber security experts said it is very difficult to trace hackers' whereabouts. He said Monday's indictments show that the U.S. government must have some major evidence tracing the hacking attempts back to China.
McGee said it also shows that the threats we always hear about are real.
"It is important that we try to stay ahead of the threats and make sure that we put things in place to try to catch those specific things that are innovative and creative," said McGee. "Our adversaries are very curious and interested in some of the advanced technologies that we have as a nation, and specifically in Huntsville with Redstone Arsenal."
Huntsville and the arsenal are among the most attempted hacking sites in the country. In a successful attack first reported by Bloomberg in 2013, reports indicate a Chinese hacking group stole some of the military's top secrets after gaining access through Huntsville contractor QinetiQ's computer system.
Company representatives never revealed what hackers had access to, but also said they put new barriers in place to prevent further attacks.
Cyber security experts said these attempts happen every day.
"Make sure that you train your employees, that they are understanding that they too can become victims," said McGee. "You see it on phones, we see it on the internet, we see it on Facebook."
Aleta Technologies executive Jay Kurowsky said the news of the allegations against the Chinese fits right into the current cybercrime landscape as he knows it. He said that cyberspace is the fifth so-called "war fighting domain."
Kurowsky said Huntsville's schools have turned into training grounds for the next generation of experts to fight off foreign threats, experts he said the U.S. government, military and businesses will need.
"It is very likely that the majority of wars in the future will be fought in cyberspace instead of on land, see and air," he said. "The thing that helps me sleep at night is that other countries are reliant on information technology as well as we are, so it's hard to defend; it's easy to attack."