U.S. authorities have indicted four members of China's military, charging that they hacked into credit-reporting company Equifax and stole trade secrets and Americans' personal data.
In a nine-count indictment, Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were charged with hacking into the Atlanta company.
“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” said Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.
“Today, we hold PLA 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.”
Barr went on to say that the hack represents a “disturbing and unacceptable pattern” of China engaging in state-sponsored cyberespionage against American companies.
The indictment says that the defendants exploited a vulnerability in software used by Equifax’s online dispute portal to penetrate the system. They then used that access to spy on the company’s online dispute portal and obtain login credentials that could be used to further navigate the company’s network, the indictment says.
To hide their efforts, the defendants allegedly used a tor router to redirect their digital footprint through 34 servers located in nearly 20 countries. They also used encrypted communication channels within Equifax’s network to obfuscate their activities while within the network, the charges say.
“In short, this was an organized and remarkably brazen criminal heist of sensitive information of nearly half of all Americans, as well as the hard work and intellectual property of an American company, by a unit of the Chinese military,” said Barr.
The hack, which was disclosed in 2017, resulted in the compromise of nearly 150 million credit reports.
At last check Equifax shares were off 0.5% at $154.90.