U.S prosecutors announced charges on Wednesday against five suspected Chinese hackers and two Malaysian businessmen in connection with cyber-attacks on more than 100 companies in the United States and abroad.
The five Chinese hackers, one of whom allegedly bragged about ties to China's civilian intelligence service, remain at large. The two Malaysian businessmen, accused of conspiring with two of the hackers to profit from hacks on gaming companies, were arrested in Malaysia on Sept. 14, the Justice Department announced.
The Chinese hackers were charged in two separate indictments handed down in August 2019 and August 2020. The Malaysian businessmen were charged in a third indictment returned in August, 2020.
U.S. prosecutors alleged the hackers targeted a wide range of entities, including software development firms, computer hardware manufacturers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, video game companies, non-profit organizations, universities, think tanks, and foreign governments, as well as pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong.
"The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens," said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. "Regrettably, the Chinese communist party has chosen a different path of making China safe for cybercriminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China."
In addition to charging the suspects, U.S. authorities seized hundreds of accounts, servers, domain names, and command-and-control (C2) "dead drop" web pages used by the defendants to conduct their computer intrusion offenses.
The indictments are the latest in a series of charges against suspected Chinese hackers and come as amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China over the coronavirus pandemic, trade, and Hong Kong.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus and top administration officials have publicly called out China for cyber-intrusions and other alleged misbehavior on the global stage in support of its strategic objectives.
In July, Attorney General William Barr accused China of engaging in an "economic blitzkrieg" to supplant the United States as the world's only superpower, and he warned U.S. businesses not to bow to Chinese pressure in pursuit of profit.