Attorney General William Barr announced today that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has indicted four members of the Chinese military for involvement in the 2017 Equifax hack, which compromised the personal data of about 150 million Americans.
“Today, we hold PLA [the People’s Liberation Army] hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us,” said Barr. “Unfortunately, the Equifax hack fits a disturbing and unacceptable pattern of state-sponsored computer intrusions and thefts by China and its citizens that have targeted personally identifiable information, trade secrets, and other confidential information.”
In a statement, DoJ said a Federal grand jury last week returned a nine-count indictment against Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei. The Chinese nationals were charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The defendants, who were members of the PLA’s 54th Research Institute – a part of the Chinese military – are also charged with two counts of unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of economic espionage, and three counts of wire fraud.
Barr emphasized “China’s voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans” and other “Chinese illegal acquisitions of sensitive personal data,” and cited hacks into the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Marriott hotel chain, and Anthem health insurance company. Those attacks, he said, also can “feed China’s development of artificial intelligence tools as well as the creation of intelligence targeting packages.”