DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack

Attorney General William Barr on Monday announced indictments against four members of the Chinese military for hacking into the systems of credit agency Equifax in 2017, stealing the personal information of more than 145 million Americans in one of the biggest data breaches in history.

The nine-count indictment alleges that four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA)– Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Le — worked to steal personal information including Social Security numbers and drivers license numbers.

“This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” Barr said on Monday. “Today, we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us.”

The indictment, which was passed down by a federal grand jury in Atlanta, also charged the four Chinese nationals with stealing trade secrets, such as Equifax’s database designs, and noted that the defendants took steps to evade detection, such as routing online traffic through servers in 20 different countries to mask their location.

“This was an organized and remarkably brazen criminal heist of sensitive information of nearly half of all Americans, as well as the hard work and intellectual property of an American company, by a unit of the Chinese military,” Barr said.

Equifax responds: Equifax CEO Mark Begor said in a statement on Monday that the company was “grateful” to both the Justice Department and the FBI for their work to prosecute the data breach, noting that “the attack on Equifax was an attack on U.S. consumers as well as the United States.”