The United States Department of Justice has charged five Chinese and two Malaysian citizens with hacking more than 100 companies, including the government of India’s network, PTI reported.
The Justice Department said in a statement that the Malaysian citizens were arrested on Sunday and the five Chinese have been declared fugitives. The US does not have an extradition treaty with China.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said three indictments have been unsealed in the matter that charged five Chinese citizens with hacking and two Malaysians for assisting some of those hackers to target victims.
The indictment stated that the Indian government’s network was compromised in 2019. “In about 2019, the conspirators compromised Government of India websites, as well as virtual private networks and database servers supporting the Government of India,” the indictment stated. “The conspirators used VPS [virtual private server] PROVIDER servers to connect to an Open VPN [virtual private network] network owned by the government of India.” It added that the conspirators installed a malware named Cobalt Strike on Indian government-protected computers.
Rosen also slammed the Chinese government for the cyberattack. “The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens,” the deputy general said. “Regrettably, the Chinese Communist Party has chosen a different path – of making China safe for cyber-criminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China.”
Other countries, apart from India and the US, affected by the cyberattack include Singapore, Australia, Japan, Brazil and Chile, BBC reported. The hackers could not successfully compromise the United Kingdom’s computer network.
The indictment stated that conspirators Jiang Lizhi (35), Qian Chuan (39) and Fu Qiang (37) worked as senior managers in a Chinese network security company and that they used their skills for “offensive” operations.
The deputy general said many of the Chinese defendants compromised network of video game companies, duping them of in-game resources. Two Chinese and two Malaysians – Wong Ong Hua (46) and Ling Yang Ching (32) – have been accused of selling these in-game resources in the black market, Rosen added.
Security researchers the intrusions used by the hackers helped facilitate the theft of customer account data, software code signing certificates, source code and valuable business information.
The intrusions also assisted the conspirators in crypto-jacking and ransomware schemes. The former term refers to the illegal use of the target’s computers in order to mine cryptocurrency.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director David Bowdich said the indictment charges should be taken as a reminder for “those who continue to deploy malicious cyber tactics”.
Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R Sherwin said some of the conspirators believed that being associated with the Peoples Republic of China gave them a license to hack and steal around the world.