Thursday, April 18, 2024

Chinese Nationals Indicted for Cyber Intrusions Targeting US Critics and Businesses

Washington, DC – In a significant development exposing a prolonged cyber-espionage campaign, the United States Department of Justice unsealed an indictment today charging seven nationals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and wire fraud. The indictment reveals their involvement in a China-based hacking group, Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (APT31 Group), which operated for approximately 14 years, targeting US and foreign critics, businesses, and political officials.

The defendants – Ni Gaobin (倪高彬), Weng Ming (翁明), Cheng Feng (程锋), Peng Yaowen (彭耀文), Sun Xiaohui (孙小辉), Xiong Wang (熊旺), and Zhao Guangzong (赵光宗) – are believed to reside in the PRC.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland asserted, “The Justice Department will not tolerate efforts by the Chinese government to intimidate Americans who serve the public, silence dissidents protected by American laws, or steal from American businesses.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized the global impact of the hacking operation, stating, “Over 10,000 malicious emails, impacting thousands of victims across multiple continents. As alleged in today’s indictment, this prolific global hacking operation, backed by the PRC government, targeted journalists, political officials, and companies to repress critics of the Chinese regime, compromise government institutions, and steal trade secrets.”

The indictment outlines the defendants’ extensive cyber activities, including sending malicious emails appearing to be from reputable news outlets or journalists. These emails contained hidden tracking links, enabling the hackers to gather information about the recipients, such as location and internet protocol addresses, facilitating further targeted hacking.

Targets included government officials critical of the PRC, individuals associated with the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, and dissidents worldwide. The indictment details sophisticated hacking techniques employed by the defendants, including zero-day exploits, resulting in compromised economic plans, intellectual property, and trade secrets belonging to American businesses.

US Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York emphasized, “America’s sovereignty extends to its cyberspace. Today’s charges demonstrate my office’s commitment to upholding and protecting that jurisdiction and to putting an end to malicious nation-state cyber activity.”

The FBI’s Assistant Director, Bryan Vorndran, underscored the FBI’s dedication to combatting cyber threats, stating, “They serve as a reminder that cyber adversaries who seek to compromise our nation’s systems and target US officials cannot rely on the cloak of anonymity and will face consequences for their actions.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen highlighted the global ramifications: “Today’s announcements underscore the need to remain vigilant to cybersecurity threats and the potential for cyber-enabled foreign malign influence efforts, especially as we approach the 2024 election cycle.”

The defendants face charges related to their roles in the cyber-espionage conspiracy, including testing and exploiting malware, managing infrastructure associated with intrusions, and conducting surveillance and intrusions against specific US entities.
Assistant US Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, Saritha Komatireddy, and Jessica Weigel for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case with assistance from the National Security Division’s National Security Cyber Section.

This indictment signals a robust response by US authorities against state-sponsored cyber threats, reaffirming the commitment to protect national security and safeguard democratic principles against foreign interference.

 

 

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Global Strat View Staff
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