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The Department of Justice on Monday charged 4 Chinese nationals with a state-backed worldwide hacking campaign. These individuals have been involved in several incidents of hacking into the computers of dozens of companies, universities, and governments in the U.S. and at least 11 other countries.
Three of the individuals have been identified as officers with the Hainan State Security Department, an arm of China’s intelligence service. The names of the four residents of China in connection to the scheme were disclosed by the court last Friday. According to the court Ding Xaioyang, Cheng Qingmin, Zhu Yunmin, and Wu Shurong had one goal i.e. to install malware on protected computers and steal the data on the computers.
The Chinese intelligence company would create a fake company to recruit talented computer hackers to exploit foreign universities, steal trade secrets, proprietary data and recruit talented linguists to interpret the stolen material.
The prosecutor claimed they carried out their operations from July 2009 to September 2018. The sole purpose of the operation was to target various research universities in the United States, including the National Institutes of Health. The group primarily used a phishing technique to gain access to company’s and institutions’ data.
According to the Justice Department, the hackers also targeted infectious-disease research related to Ebola, MERS, HIV/AIDS, Marburg, and tularemia.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said, “These criminal charges once again highlight that China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments.”
He further added, “The breadth and duration of China’s hacking campaigns, including these efforts targeting a dozen countries across sectors ranging from healthcare and biomedical research to aviation and defense, remind us that no country or industry is safe. Today’s international condemnation shows that the world wants fair rules, where countries invest in innovation, not theft.”
The action was taken after the Biden administration, several allies and partners, and NATO joined forces to “expose and criticize” China for a “pattern of malicious cyber activities.”
According to the senior administration officials, the PRC is profiting off some of the cyberattacks they’ve supported, and officially saying they were behind the Microsoft Exchange server breach in March.