The US Department of Justice announced today charges against four Chinese hackers for breaching US credit reporting agency Equifax in the summer of 2016.
Speaking at a press conference today, US General Attorney William Barr said the four hackers are believed to be members of the Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA).
They four hackers were identified as Liu Lei, Wang Qian, Wu Zhiyong, and Xu Ke, members of the 54th Research Institute,a component of the PLA.
General Attorney Barr said the four stole not only data on US citizens, but also Equifax’s proprietary data.
Equifax disclosed a data breach in September 2017. The company said hackers stole the details of 145.5 million Americans, but also of millions of British and Canadian citizens. In a post-mortem published in September 2018, Equifax said the hack occurred because of an unpatched server.
The FBI described the investigation as challenging. Officials said the investigation started out with only 40 IP addresses that were used during the cyber-attack.
This marks the second time the US has charged hackers associated with the Chinese military. The first charges came in 2014, when the DOJ charged five other hackers for hacks against multiple US companies.
“We don’t usually bring criminal charges against military and intelligence officers,” Barr said. “There are exceptions though.”
However, Barr said that the deliberate and indiscriminate theft of civilian information cannot be countenanced.
This is a developing story. More updates will follow.