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For the first time in history, the United States has brought hacking charges against a state actor.

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce criminal charges filed by the Justice Department against several Chinese government officials, accusing them of stealing American trade secrets through cyber espionage.

The charges will name several individuals who are Chinese government employees, according to a U.S. official. “They used military and intelligence facilities to commit cyber espionage against U.S. companies,” the official said.

The names of the targeted companies could not immediately be determined, but they were said to be in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

The Obama administration has long considered China the most aggressive nation in obtaining industrial secrets through spying.

“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” said the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a U.S. government agency, in a 2011 report.

China, however, is denouncing the charges, calling any suggestion that the Chinese were involved in those intrusions “irresponsible.” Security experts, however, are adamant.

U.S. security experts said China targeted news organizations in the U.S. and overseas to try to identify the sources of news leaks within the Chinese government.

Those disclosures prompted a computer security expert and former Justice Department lawyer, Marc Zwillinger to say, “the only computers these days that are safe from Chinese government hackers are computers that are turned off, unplugged, and thrown in the back seat of your car.”

The formal charges will be announced later Monday.