Four Chinese security officials have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury in a China-backed global espionage campaign, targeting dozens of companies, universities, government agencies in the US and at least 11 other countries, between July 2009 to September 2018.
On July 19 (Monday), the San Diego’s US Attorney’s Office and the FBI said the four Chinese nationals were working with their government to steal sensitive information including intellectual property and confidential business information. The hackers also targeted infectious-disease research material related to Ebola, MERS, HIV/AIDS, Marburg and tularemia, said the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that the cyber theft was of “significant economic benefit to China’s companies and commercial sectors.” Accused Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin, Zhu Yunmin, and Wu Shurong were working with a sole motive, according to court documents, that is installing malware on protected computers and steal the data on the computers. As alleged, the accused MSS officers coordinated with staff and professors at various universities in Hainan and elsewhere in China to further the conspiracy’s goals.
China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make: American attorney
“The cyber attacks alleged in the indictment contradict commitments that China’s government has made to the United States and other nations. These include the unambiguous 2015 understanding with the U.S. and other countries not to conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information,” the DOJ 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,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco.
“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 defence, 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,” Lisa O. Monaco added.
The US attributes Microsoft Exchange Server cyber attacks to Chinese govt backed hackers
The announcement came as the US government jointly with NATO, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada, accused China of a global cyber espionage campaign on Monday.
At an event about the administration’s infrastructure plan, US President Joe Biden told media: “My understanding is that the Chinese government, not unlike the Russian government, are not doing this themselves, but are protecting those who are doing it. And maybe even accommodating them being able to do it.”
It is pertinent to note here that America has also attributed the Microsoft mail server cyber software attack earlier this year, to the China-backed hackers. The brazen cyber attack on the Microsoft Exchange became public in March this year. It is believed to have hit at least 30,000 American organizations and hundreds of thousands more worldwide.
According to Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Centre, the cyber-group named Hafnium, a group of hackers on the Chinese state payroll, was responsible for the attack on Microsoft. A senior official in the White House told reporters in a briefing during the weekend that the US government had “high confidence” that the Exchange hackers were being paid by the Chinese government.