FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich announced charges today against two Chinese hackers accused of working at the direction of the Chinese government to steal intellectual property from U.S. companies. According to the FBI, the two hackers charged today have been at this for more than a decade and have stolen information from companies around the U.S.
According to the 11-count indictment, Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, conducted a global hacking campaign for more than a decade. The indictment alleges that the defendants were able to successfully steal terabytes of data from the United States as well as Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that high tech manufacturing processes, gaming software, solar energy engineering, pharmaceuticals and defense industries were among those targeted in the hack.
A California technology and defense company, a Maryland technology and manufacturing company, the Department of Energy’s Hanford site in Washington, a Texas engineering firm, a Virginia defense contractor, a Massachusetts software firm, a California gaming software company and several U.S. drug makers were among the 13 American businesses that were targeted.
These hackers have recently been attempting to hack into the networks of companies involved in coronavirus research, though it seems those efforts were not successful.
The pair did try to hack a Massachusetts biotech firm researching a vaccine as early as Jan. 27, according to the indictment. On Feb. 1, the pair tried to find vulnerabilities on the networks of a California biotech firm that had announced it was researching coronavirus antiviral drugs. Then, in May, Mr. Li investigated a California diagnostic firm developing virus testing kits…
The suspects also tried to steal other information on Chinese activists for the Ministry of State Security, Beijing’s civilian spy agency, said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security. The suspects handed over account information and passwords belonging to a Hong Kong community organizer, a former Tiananmen Square protester and a pastor of a Christian church in China.
“You can see by the variety of the hacks that they did how they were being directed by the government,” Mr. Demers said at a news conference in Washington. “Extorting someone for cryptocurrency is not something that the government is usually interested in, nor are criminal hackers are not usually interested in human rights activists and clergymen.”
So these hackers have are engaged in a kind of hybrid crime. On the one hand they commit hacking crimes to extort money for themselves. But they allowed to do that because they also work directly for the Chinese government.
In announcing the charges today, Deputy Director Bowdich referenced a speech FBI Director Wray gave early this month in which he said that Chinese thefts of U.S. intellectual property were “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” Bowdich went on to compare the behavior of China in directing these efforts to organized crime: