Department of Justice Claims that Communist China’s Military Stole Millions of Americans’ Data
Four members of the Chinese military are now facing charges for breaking into the computer networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing sensitive information of tens of millions of Americans, according to the Justice Department.
The DOJ is blaming the Chinese government for presiding over one of the largest consumer data hacks in history.
The 2017 hack impacted over 145 million people, in which hackers successfully stole names, addresses, Social Security, driver’s license numbers, and other personal information stored in the company’s databases. The hack sullied the company’s reputation and showcased China’s aggressive and advanced intelligence-gathering methods.
This case is just the latest in the U.S. government’s growing list of accusations against Chinese hackers suspected of hacking the networks of American corporations. Some of the affected corporations include steel manufactures, a hotel chain, and a health insurer.
“The scale of the theft was staggering,” Attorney General William Barr declared on Monday, February 10, 2020. “This theft not only caused significant financial damage to Equifax, but invaded the privacy of many millions of Americans, and imposed substantial costs and burdens on them as they have had to take measures to protect against identity theft.”
This indictment took place at a time when relationships between Washington and Beijing are shaky.
Although Trump closed the first phase of a trade deal with China, there are still members of his administration who believe China poses a major threat in terms of cybersecurity and surveillance. Huawei’s efforts to become a leader in high-speed 5G wireless networks globally worries many Trump officials.
According to U.S. policy experts, this theft is in line with China’s M.O. to collect as much information about Americans as possible. Hypothetically speaking, the personal data can be sold and then Chinese intelligence operatives can later use it to target Americans, and use the information to discover weaknesses and exploit certain flaws.
The four accused hackers are suspected to be members of the People’s Liberation Army, a branch of the Chinese military that was blamed in 2014 for a series of breaches into American corporations.
Prosecutors claims these PLA members exploited a software vulnerability in order to access Equifax’s computers and later obtain log-in credentials that would be used to navigate databases and review records. According to the indictment, they then proceeded to cover their tracks by wiping log files on a daily basis and routing traffic via dozens of servers in nearly 20 countries.
In addition to stealing personal data, the hackers escaped with some of the company’s sensitive trade secrets, which included database designs, law enforcement officials reported.
The accused hackers are currently located in China and none of them are in custody. However, U.S. officials still hope that criminal charges can serve as a deterrent to foreign hackers and a warning to other countries that American law enforcement has the ability to expose fuure cyber culprits.
Barr stated that the U.S. has for years “witnessed China’s voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans.”
“This kind of attack on American industry is of a piece with other Chinese illegal acquisitions of sensitive personal data,” Barr claimed.
The criminal charges of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and conspiracy to commit economic espionage were filed in a federal court in Atlanta.
China is demonstrating that it is the #1 threat to U.S. national security.
Instead of nation-building in the Middle East, the U.S. should be focused on building its cyber infrastructure to be prepared to face off with China’s cyber threats in the near future.