China-backed hackers broke into 100 firms and agencies, U.S. says
18 Sep 2020

The Justice Department said on Wednesday that a group of hackers associated with China’s main intelligence service had infiltrated more than 100 companies and organizations around the world to steal intelligence, hijack their networks and extort their victims.

The United States government presented the allegations in a set of three indictments unsealed on Wednesday that showed the scope and sophistication of China’s attempts to unlawfully advance its economy and to become the dominant global superpower through cyberattacks. The indictments also said some of the hackers had worked with Malaysian nationals to steal and launder money through the video game industry.

“The Chinese government has made a deliberate choice to allow its citizens to commit computer intrusions and attacks around the world because these actors will also help the P.R.C.,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said, referring to the People’s Republic of China in a news conference where he announced the charges.

The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael R. Sherwin, said some of the perpetrators viewed their association with China as providing “free license to hack and steal across the globe.”

The hackers, Zhang Haoran, Tan Dailin, Jiang Lizhi, Qian Chuan and Fu Qiang, targeted social media and other technology companies, universities, government agencies and nonprofits, according to the indictments.

They had such reach partly because they used a so-called supply chain attack that enabled them to break into software companies and embed malicious code in their products. Once those products were installed in other systems, the hackers could use the code that they had planted to break in. The attack described by Justice Department officials on Wednesday was among the first supply chain attacks publicly revealed in a U.S. indictment of Chinese nationals.

Some of the Chinese hackers also worked with two Malaysian businessmen to use video game platforms to steal from the companies and launder illegal proceeds. The businessmen, Wong Ong Hua and Ling Yang Ching, were arrested on Monday in Malaysia, officials said.

The criminal computer activity and the hackers had been tracked by cyberresearchers under the group names Advanced Persistent Threat 41, Barium, Winnti, Wicked Panda and Panda Spider, officials said.

By Katie Benner and Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times, 16 September 2020

Read more at The New York Times

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