BEIJING: A Chinese police agency on Monday accused the United States of breaking into computers at a university that American officials say does military research, adding to complaints by both governments of rampant online spying on each other.

Northwestern Polytechnical University reported computer break-ins in June, the National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center announced. It said the center, working with commercial security provider Qihoo 360 Technology Co., traced the attacks to the National Security Agency (NSA), but gave no details of how that was done.

The announcement accused the US agency of taking information about the university's network management and other "core technologies." It said Chinese analysts found 41 "network attack" tools that it said were traced to the NSA.

The US Embassy in Beijing didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

China and the United States are, along with Russia, regarded as global leaders in cyberwarfare research.

Get the latest news
delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times’ daily newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Washington accuses Beijing of misusing its capabilities to steal commercial secrets and has filed criminal charges against Chinese military officers, while China accuses the United States of improperly spying on universities, energy and internet companies, and other targets.

Security experts say the ruling Communist Party of China's military wing, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and the Ministry of State Security also sponsor hackers outside the government.

The university, in China's western city of Xi'an, is on a US government "entity list" that limits its access to American technology. Washington says the university helps the PLA develop aerial and underwater drones and missile technology.

Last year, a Chinese man, Shuren Qin, was sentenced to two years in prison by a federal court in Boston after he pleaded guilty to exporting underwater and marine technology to the school without required licenses.

The NSA, which is part of the US Department of Defense, is responsible for "signals intelligence," or obtaining communications and other data.

The Computer Virus Emergency Response Center, set up in 1996 by the police department of the eastern city of Tianjin, describes itself as the Chinese agency responsible for inspection and testing of anti-computer virus products.

A report by Qihoo 360 in 2020 said hacking tools used in attacks on Chinese companies and government agencies from 2008 to 2019 were traced to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by comparing them with code in CIA tools disclosed by the Wikileaks group.

Monday's statement accused the NSA of carrying out other "malicious network attacks" in China, but gave no detail or any indication whether any damage was done.

The statement also gave no indication of how Chinese analysts concluded the NSA was behind the attacks.

The hackers targeted a "zero day," or previously unreported, vulnerability in the university's security, the statement said. It said the break-ins were conducted from servers in 17 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine and Colombia.

The statement described what it said were NSA software tools with names such as "Second Date" and "Drinking Tea," but didn't say which might have been used at the university.