US charges Chinese military officers over cyber attack
Indictment holds four men responsible for massive hack in 2017
Washington has charged four Chinese military officers over the cyber attack on credit rating giant Equifax in 2017.
Announcing the move to charge four members of the People's Liberation Army's 54th Research Institute, US attorney general William Barr described the hack as “one of the largest data breaches in history”.
“This kind of attack on American industry is of a piece with other Chinese illegal acquisitions of sensitive personal data,” added William Barr. “For years we have witnessed China’s voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans.”
The indictment claims the four spent weeks in the company's system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data.
The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs.
The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown and the BBC says it is highly unlikely that they will stand trial in the US.
More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses.
The company revealed that hackers had accessed information including credit card numbers, birth dates and home addresses during the breach.
“About 209,000 people have had their credit card numbers stolen, while hackers also stole documents with personal information on 182,000 victims,” CNET reported.
“Adding to the scandal,” said NBC News, three of the company's top executives sold Equifax shares “just days after the breach was discovered.”
John Gamble, chief financial officer, Jospeh Loughran, president of US information security, and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, reportedly sold shares worth an estimated total of $1.8m (£1.4m).
Wired says that “pinning the attack on China adds an important new dimension, both in terms of the Equifax incident itself and international relations” because “the US and China have gone through a turbulent few years on the cybersecurity front”.
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