US charges 2 Chinese cyber-criminals for targeting Covid-19 research data, trade secrets from major companies

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 22, 2020 Published on July 22, 2020

Two Chinese hackers have been indicted for cyber-crimes, including stealing valuable Covid-19 research data and trade secrets from major companies, the United States Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The US Justice Department has charged hackers Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, in an 11-count indictment.

“Two hackers, both nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China (China), with hacking into the computer systems of hundreds of victim companies, governments, non-governmental organisations, and individual dissidents, clergy, and democratic and human rights activists in the United States and abroad, including Hong Kong and China,” read the official release.

According to the law agency, one of the cyber-criminals was working for the Ministry of State Security (MSS) or other Chinese government agencies, while the other hacker worked for personal gain.

“The hackers stole terabytes of data which comprised a sophisticated and prolific threat to US networks,” the Justice Department said.

The hackers have targeted at least eight known companies in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

“Targeted industries included, among others, high-tech manufacturing; medical device, civil, and industrial engineering; business, educational, and gaming software; solar energy; pharmaceuticals; and defense. In at least one instance, the hackers sought to extort cryptocurrency from a victim entity by threatening to release the victim’s stolen source code on the Internet. More recently, the defendants probed for vulnerabilities in computer networks of companies developing Covid-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatments,” the release read.

Charges against the two include unauthorised access, conspiracy to access without authorisation and damage computers, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, as per the indictment.

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Published on July 22, 2020
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