DOJ charges Chinese hackers who stole American trade secrets and IP

DOJ charges Chinese hackers who stole American trade secrets and IP”

On the military front, they are charged with stealing data on satellite programmes, wireless networks and communications systems, high powered microwave and laser systems, a counter-chemical weapons system, and ship-to-helicopter integration systems.

The US Justice Department has accused two "Chinese hackers" of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of trade secrets, including defense data and research related to the development of a vaccine against coronavirus.

Their primary goal, according to federal prosecutors, was not only personal financial gain but to hand over stolen data and hacked information to China's Ministry of State Security and other Chinese government agencies.

Victims were located in several different countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.

Victims range across various industries, from pharmaceuticals and defence to educational and gaming software.

The indictment unsealed in Washington state said the two men - who reside in China - recently "researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology". In many cases, the hackers exploited the newly-announced vulnerabilities before users had installed patches for them.

The charges come amid heightened tensions between China and the West, with the United Kingdom recently suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, as well as extending an arms embargo to the region and imposing a ban on Chinese firm Huawei's 5G equipment.

As with many suspected Chinese hackers who face charges in the US, neither Li nor Dong are in custody and are unlikely to be arrested anytime soon or face trial.

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In this case, attackers allegedly focused on a Maryland biotechnology firm which previously announced it was conducting research toward a coronavirus vaccine.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in April that U.S. hospitals and research labs were being targeted by Chinese cyber activity.

USA security agencies and their British and Canadian partners last week accused Russian hackers of targeting organizations developing the COVID-19 vaccine, sparking condemnation on both sides of the Atlantic and warnings to companies that their research may be at risk of being stolen.

"The hackers stole terabytes of data which comprised a sophisticated and prolific threat to USA networks", Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said during a press conference in NY.

US Attorney William D Hyslop said on Tuesday that a firm working with the Department of Energy in Hanford notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the activity, which took place in March 2015, according to the indictment.

USA prosecutors have charged two wanted Chinese nationals linked to Beijing for their alleged involvement in a global hacking operation that targeted hundreds of companies and governments for more than a decade, stealing sensitive information. The hackers are thought to be in China, out of the reach of the United States justice system.

"The hackers stole terabytes of data from hundreds of targets which comprised a sophisticated and prolific threat to US networks", the DOJ said. They coerce good hackers into cooperating, " said James Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

But Justice Department officials say bringing charges is an important deterrent, and also helps make China's criminal conduct clear to the rest of the world.

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