Chinese Hackers Accused of Stealing Data
The Department of Justice has accused two Chinese hackers of stealing valuable data, personal information and trade secrets from hundreds of organizations around the world, including companies that are working to develop coronavirus treatments and vaccines. The suspects were identified as Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, both of whom are believed to be in China.
An 11-count indictment describes a sophisticated scheme that lasted more than 10 years and targeted a variety of industries in the United States, Europe and Asia. Federal prosecutors said they often snooped on companies for own financial gain, but also worked on behalf of the Chinese government.
Several U.S. officials disparaged the Chinese government for allegedly deploying malicious cyber tactics to steal intellectual property from other countries. It was not immediately clear, however, whether the suspects successfully obtained any coronavirus research.
“China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cyber criminals in exchange for those criminals being ‘on call’ to work for the benefit of the state, here to feed the Chinese Communist party’s insatiable hunger for American and other non-Chinese companies’ hard-earned intellectual property, including COVID-19 research,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.
In a first of its kind move, the United States has criminally charged foreign hackers with targeting companies working to fight COVID-19, even as authorities in North America and the U.K. last week accused a hacking group with ties to the Russian government with trying to steal research on the virus.
The Justice Department said Li and Dong were exploiting publicly known software vulnerabilities in popular web applications. They would then install credential-stealing software on those networks to remotely execute commands on victims’ computers. The pair targeted industries such as high-tech manufacturing, medical device engineering, solar energy, defense, pharmaceuticals, and business, educational and gaming software, authorities said. Other countries targeted were Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Spain, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
The two suspects are charged with unauthorized access, conspiracy to access without authorization and damage computers, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets; conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.