The Justice Department is ratcheting up its efforts to pursue Chinese hackers.
Federal prosecutors unsealed charges against five Chinese citizens on Wednesday. The charges are for hacking into more than 100 companies in the U.S. and internationally. The hackers have attacked social media companies, telecom networks, universities, and a variety of other organizations. With this, the government has reason to believe the suspects have close ties with Chinese intelligence.
The Justice Department detailed the allegations in three newly unsealed indictments that were released to the public on Wednesday. The indictments are the latest in a series of cases brought against Chinese hackers under the Trump administration. Beijing’s state-backed hackers are pivotal in China’s efforts to steal intellectual property. This, President Trump believes is a serious economic and national security threat. It appears that the Justice Department is making the effort to pursue China’s cyber goons a priority under the Trump Administration.
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Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen criticized the Chinese government for allowing hackers to operate with a free hand. “The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens,” Rosen said. “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.”
Chinese Hackers Attack
Prosecutors believe the Chinese cyber hit squad Persistent Threat 41. perpetrated the hacking campaign. U.S.-based cybersecurity firm FireEye has previously fingered the group as a participant in a variety of malicious online activity against a wide range of targets based in the U.S. and overseas. Persistent Threat 41 targeted companies operating in several business sectors, including finance, health care, industrial defense, and real estate.
Several U.S. tech firms aided the government in its investigation into the hackers. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, and others provided assistance in the probe. They also helped neutralize some of the digital channels used by China’s hackers. Officials say these efforts helped protect some of the hack victims.
The case marks the second major court effort against Chinese crooks in less than two months. In July, the government accused two hackers of targeting U.S. firms in a cyber theft campaign. These aimed to steal coronavirus research. In that case, the Justice Department said the two hackers, who were working on behalf of China’s top-level intelligence agency, walked away with millions of dollars worth of sensitive information
The Chinese embassy hasn’t responded to the allegations just yet. Also, the embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. However, China usually denies any wrongdoing when the U.S. accuses it of cyber espionage. Therefore, don’t expect them to come clean any time soon.
Tension at a Historic High
Tensions between the U.S. and China at a historic high. With this, protecting the country against Chinese cyber warfare is more important than ever before. The Trump Administration is fully aware that China’s cyber capabilities are a grave threat to national security. Therefore, they’re probably pushing prosecutors to make these cases a priority.
However, it’s unclear how effective these efforts will be in combating cybercrime. The federal government hasn’t been able to arrest most of the key players in these cases because they’re holed up in China, and the Chinese government isn’t going to give them up. The only way prosecutors will get the perpetrators in front of a judge is if they get sloppy and leave China. Until the government can get its hands on the suspects, Chinese hackers can still operate from their country with impunity.