DOJ: 4 Chinese Military Hackers Stole Americans’ Personal Info in Equifax Breach

The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges on Monday against four members of the People’s Liberation Army for hacking credit reporting agency Equifax in 2017 and stealing personal information of millions of Americans in “sweeping” fashion.

The DOJ held a press conference on Monday to announce the results of an investigation of a breach that affected “nearly half of all Americans.” The defendants have been identified as Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei.

“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” said a statement from Attorney General William Barr on Monday. “Today, we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us.”

The indictment was filed under seal on Jan. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.

Beginning on an unknown date, but at least by on or about May 13, 2017, and continuing through on or about July 30, 2017, members of the People’s Liberation Army (“PLA”), the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China (“China”), conspired with each other to hack into the protected computers of Equifax located in the Northern District of Georgia, to maintain unauthorized access to those computers, and to steal sensitive personally identifiable information of 145 million Americans.

The PLA hackers obtained names, birth dates, and social security numbers for the 145 million American victims, in addition to driver’s license numbers for at least 10 million Americans stored on Equifax’s databases. The hackers also collected credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information belonging to approximately 200,000 American consumers. Accordingly, in a single breach, the PLA obtained sensitive personally identifiable information for nearly half of all American citizens.

The charges are: conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer, economic espionage, and wire fraud.

You can read the full indictment below:

DOJ indictment against Chinese military (Equifax) by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Equifax/YouTube screengrab]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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