Reuters' Melanie Lee reports that faculty members at China's Shanghai Jiaotong University have collaborated on at least three research papers over the past few years with members of People's Liberation Army Unit 61398, which security firm Mandiant recently identified as a unit focused on cyberespionage.

"The apparent working relationship between the PLA unit and Shanghai Jiaotong is in contrast to common practice in most developed nations, where university professors in recent decades have been reluctant to cooperate with operational intelligence gathering units," Lee writes.

The papers, which discuss network security and intrusion detection, state on their title pages that they were written by Unit 61398 researchers and Shangahi Jiaotong professors. "The research seems to be defensive, but cyber-security research in general can be dual purpose," Crowdstrike director of intelligence Adam Meyers told Reuters.

James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters the real issue is whether the faculty members have been involved in actual intelligence operations. "That's something the U.S. does not do," Lewis said. "[In the U.S.] there's a clear line between an academic researcher and people engaged in operational [intelligence gathering] activities."