(Reuters) – The US Department of Justice said on Wednesday that it has prosecuted five Chinese residents and two Malaysian businessmen in an extensive hacking operation that included targets from video games to activists for democracy.
Federal prosecutors say Chinese citizens had been accused of hacking more than 100 companies in the United States and abroad, including software development companies, computer manufacturers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, gaming companies, non-profit organizations, universities, think tanks as well as foreign governments and politicians and civilians society figures in Hong Kong.
US officials stopped claiming that the hackers were working for Beijing, but in a statement, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen expressed outrage at the Chinese authorities and said that they ̵
"We know that the Chinese authorities are at least as capable as the law enforcement authorities here and in like-minded states of enforcing computer hacking laws," Rosen said. "But they choose not to do so."
He further claimed that one of the Chinese defendants had boasted to a colleague that he was "very close" to China's Ministry of State Security and would be protected "unless something very big happens."
"No responsible government consciously protects cybercriminals who target victims around the world in rank theft," Rosen said.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return an email for comment. Beijing has repeatedly denied responsibility for hacking in the face of a growing pile of prosecution by US authorities.
Along with the alleged hackers, US prosecutors also charged two Malaysian businessmen, Wong Ong Hua, 46, and Ling Yang Ching, 32, who were accused of conspiring with two of the digital spies to take advantage of computer hacking against video game companies. in the United States, France, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
The Ministry of Justice said the couple operated through a Malaysian company called SEA Gamer. Mall, an online gaming store.
SEA Gamer said in a statement that they were aware of the allegations against their employees but denied that the company was involved in inaccuracies. to say that the company has never engaged in any illegal activity ", it said, adding that it cooperated with authorities.
US Assistant Secretary of State for National Security John Demers said on Wednesday that the Malaysian defendants were in custody but were likely to fight extradition.
The Department of Justice said it had received search options this month, which resulted in the seizure of hundreds of accounts, servers, domain names and "dead drop" pages used by the alleged hackers to help siphon data from its victims.
The department said that Microsoft Corp. had developed measures to block the hackers and that the company's actions "were a significant part" of the United States' overall attempt to neutralize them. Microsoft acknowledged this in a statement that applauded government officials for "taking steps to protect our customers."