Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray announce indictment of Chinese hackers

Saul Bowman
December 21, 2018

USA officials on Thursday indicted two alleged Chinese hackers said to have carried out an extensive campaign on behalf of Beijing's main intelligence agency to steal trade secrets and other information from government agencies and "a who's who" of major corporations in the United States and almost a dozen other nations. Cybersecurity experts have also nicknamed the group Stone Panda, Red Apollo and POTASSIUM.

APT10 also hacked the computer systems of commercial and defense technology companies and U.S. agencies in a separate campaign that began in 2006, stealing hundreds of gigabytes of data from at least 45 companies and government bodies across a dozen USA states.

"They steal data for an extended time", said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The move comes as Canada is weighing whether to allow China's flagship tech company, Huawei Technologies, to supply gear for next-generation 5G mobile networks.

In addition, the defendants are alleged to have "comprised more than 40 computers in order to steal confidential data from the U.S. Navy, "including the personally identifiable information of more than 100,000 Navy personnel".

Canada also pointed the finger at China, with its Communications Security Establishment agency stating that it was nearly certain that actors associated with the Chinese government were behind the attacks on the service providers beginning as early as 2016.

"China promised to stop, but this activity violates the commitment they made", he said.

Beginning in about 2014, the APT10 Group engaged in a campaign to get unauthorized access over an extended period of time to computers and computer networks of MSPs for businesses and governments around the world using malware to steal user names and passwords of employees, US authorities said.

It was the latest in a series of Justice Department indictments targeting Chinese cyberespionage, and coincided with an announcement by Britain blaming China's Ministry of State Security for trade-secret pilfering affecting Western nations.

More than 90 percent of cases alleging economic espionage involved China as did more than two-thirds of trade secret theft prosecutions, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

They went after Managed Service Providers (MSPs) or those that handle sensitive and confidential business information.

Two Chinese nationals have been charged in the U.S. over their alleged membership of a hacking group operating in China known in global intelligence circles as Advanced Persistent Threat 10, or APT10.

The Trump Administration on December 20 charged two Chinese nationals who allegedly targeted scores of companies in 12 countries, including the United States, India, Japan and Brazil.

"China's goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world's leading superpower, and they're using illegal methods to get there", Wray said.

"This is outright cheating and theft, and it gives China an unfair advantage at the expense of law-abiding businesses and countries that follow the worldwide rules in return for the privilege of participating in the global economic system", Rosenstein said. "It's going to take all of us working together to protect our economic security and our way of life, because the American people deserve no less", he said. China has no extradition agreement with the USA, and ongoing trade conflict between the two countries, exacerbated by the recent arrest of a Huawei executive in Canada at the behest of the United States, makes any sort of accord look unlikely.

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