(Reuters) – U.S. The Justice Department accused two Chinese citizens of hacking defense contractors, COVID researchers and hundreds of other victims around the world, according to a court application published on Tuesday.
U.S. Authorities said Chinese citizens Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi participated in a multi-year cyber-espionage campaign that stole weapons designs, drug information, software source code, and targeted dissidents and Chinese opposition figures.
Contact details for Chinese citizens were not immediately available. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Beijing has repeatedly denied hacking by the United States and other rival powers.
The indictment did not name any companies, but officials said the investigation was triggered when hackers broke into the Hanford Site, a dismantled U.S. nuclear power plant in eastern Washington State.
including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Belgium. U.S. Attorney William Hyslop said, "There are hundreds and hundreds of victims in the United States and around the world."
The Chinese citizens were "one of the most productive groups of hackers we've investigated," said FBI Special Agent Raymond Duda, head of the agency's field office in Seattle. He said the couple was involved in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in intellectual property.
The document claims that Chinese citizens acted as contractors for the Chinese Ministry of Security, or MSS, a comparable agency with the US Central Intelligence Agency. MSS, prosecutors said, provided hackers with information about critical software vulnerabilities to penetrate targets and gather intelligence. Among those targeted were Hong Kong protesters, the office of the Dalai Lama and a Chinese Christian non-profit organization.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said at a virtual press conference that hackers sometimes worked for their own account, including a case in which Li allegedly tried to extort $ 1
Mr. Demers said China had joined the "disgraceful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cybercriminals" in exchange for its services that steal intellectual property.
An expert said that the indictment showed the "extremely high value" that governments such as China placed on COVID-related research.
"It is a fundamental threat to all governments around the world and we expect information regarding treatments and vaccines to be targeted by several sponsors of cyber espionage," said Ben Read, a senior analyst at cybersecurity firm FireEye.
He noted that the Chinese government had long relied on contractors for its cyber espionage operations.
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The indictment alleges that hackers operated from 2014 to 2020 and most recently tried to steal cancer research.
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