Washington: The US Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacking over a 100 companies and institutions in America. The five Chinese citizens have also been booked for hacking Indian government’s networks and stealing software data and business intelligence.
Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen announced Wednesday three indictments have been unsealed in the matter. One of them is against the Chinese citizens. The other two indictments charge Malaysian nationals for helping the Chinese. The Malaysian nationals were arrested Sunday and the Chinese nationals have been declared fugitive. The US Justice Department said all these in a statement.
Rosen severely criticised the Chinese government. “The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions. The Chinese citizens are behind these cyber attacks. Regrettably, the Chinese Communist Party has chosen a different path-of making China safe for cyber-criminals so long they attack computers outside China. In fact the government facilitates such cyber-criminals as long as they steal intellectual property helpful to China. This should stop,” the deputy attorney general said.
“In 2019, the conspirators compromised Government of lndia websites. They also hacked virtual private networks and database servers supporting the Government of India. The conspirators used ‘VPS PROVIDER’ servers to connect to an Open VPN network owned by the Government of India,” the indictment said.
In the attacks, the conspirators installed ‘Cobalt Strike’ malware on Indian government-protected computers, the statement added.
According to the charges, the computer intrusions affected over 100 companies in the United States and abroad.
The victims ranged from software development, computer hardware, telecommunication, social media and video game companies. Non-profit organisations, universities, think-tanks, pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong were also targetted.
Security researchers tracked the intrusions using labels ‘APT41’, ‘Barium’, ‘Winnti’, ‘Wicked Panda’, and ‘Wicked Spider’.
These intrusions facilitated the theft of source code, software code, customer account data, and valuable business information.
The Chinese hackers also targeted government computers and networks of Vietnam and United Kingdom. The hackers however, were not successful in compromising the government computer networks in the UK.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates the ramifications faced by the hackers in China. It is also a reminder to those who continue to deploy malicious cyber tactics that we will utilise every tool we have to administer justice,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.
Rosen told reporters that as an additional method of making-money, several of the Chinese defendants compromised the networks of video game companies worldwide. It is a billion dollar industry and the hackers defrauded them of in-game resources.
“Two of the Chinese defendants stand accused, with two Malaysian defendants, of selling those resources in the black market,” Rosen informed.