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Chinese hackers indicted after investigation led by FBI in New Orleans

Posted at 1:29 PM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 14:29:11-05

The Department of Justice announced on Thursday the criminal indictment of two computer hackers associated with the Chinese government.

The FBI Field Offices in New Orleans led the investigation into the cyber hacking.

The Justice Department says that Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong are accused of targeting and compromising Managed Service Providers or MSPs which store, process, and protect commercial data. That data includes intellectual property and other confidential business information. According to the Justice Department, a breach of MSPs can result in the theft of sensitive business information that may give competitors an unfair advantage.

According to a release, the indictment alleges that Hua and Shilong worked for a group of cybersecurity experts known to the FBI as APT-10.  These groups are alleged to have used malware to gain access to computer networks and exfiltrate data over an extended period of time, according to the FBI.

The indictment alleges that Hua and Shilong compromised MSPs in at least a dozen countries. Those affected by the compromise include companies specializing in banking and finance, telecommunications and consumer electronics, medical equipment, packaging, manufacturing, consulting, healthcare, biotechnology, automotive, oil and gas exploration, and mining.

The Justice Department says the hacks were allegedly made in association with a Chinese intelligence service known as the Ministry of State Security.

Chinese state actors and associates have been accused of stealing commercial information before. The Justice Department says that more than 90 percent of cases alleging economic espionage over the past seven years have involved China. More than two-thirds of the Department’s cases involving thefts of trade secrets are connected to China.

Charges were announced in three other cases this year that involved the Chinese intelligence service. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says that the alleged activity covered in the indictment violates the commitment that China made to members of the international community.

Rosenstein adds these the actions have one goal. “Whether through computer hackers operating from China or Chinese nationals recruited to steal trade secrets from companies in other countries, the goal is the same: to dominate production in strategically important industries by stealing ideas from other nations.”

The Justice Department says they are taking steps to ensure that these types of threats are addressed.