U.S. authorities have indicted four members of the Chinese military on charges of hacking the credit-reporting agency Equifax, stealing sensitive personal information of roughly 145 million Americans and Equifax’s trade secrets, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Jan. 10.
The breach into Equifax, disclosed in 2017, was one of the largest hacks on record, and exposed Americans’ sensitive financial records, social security numbers, and driver’s license data.
A federal grand jury in Atlanta returned a 9-count-indictment last week which accused four members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of engaging in a hacking operation that involved exploiting a vulnerability in Equifax’s online dispute portal.
Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei were members of the PLA’s 54th Research Institute, a part of the Chinese military, the DOJ said.
The hackers spent weeks in the system, uploading malicious software and stealing login credentials to carry out their theft, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said at a Monday press conference.
“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” he said in a press release.
This theft, Barr said, was one among a range of Chinese state-backed hacking operations aimed at stealing sensitive personal information from Americans. These include the 2014 hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which resulted in the theft of 23 million records of federal employees; the 2014 hack of Marriott Hotels, which exposed the personal information of up to 500 million customers; and the 2015 breach of U.S. insurer Anthem, which affected a computer system containing data on nearly 80 million people.
“This data has economic value, and these thefts can feed China’s development of artificial intelligence tools as well as the creation of intelligence-targeting packages,” Barr said at the press conference.
State-sponsored hackers have also targeted foreign companies to steal trade secrets, Barr noted.
For instance, in December 2019, the DOJ charged two Chinese nationals working for the regime’s top intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security, over an extensive hacking campaign targeting U.S. government agencies and private companies in the United States and at least a dozen other countries.
From The Epoch Times