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Justice Dept. Indicts 4 Chinese Military Members For Stealing Data Of Half Of Americans

Neer Varshney

The Justice Department has indicted four Chinese military members in the 2017 Equifax Inc. (NYSE: EFX) data breach.

What Happened

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a “wanted” notice against the accused, including Wang Qian, Xu Ke, Liu Lei, and Wu Zhiyong, who were members of the 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese army, according to the federal agency.

FBI Wanted Notice Against The Indicted Chinese Military Personnel

"The hackers broke into Equifax's network through a vulnerability in the company's dispute resolution system,” the United States Attorney General William Barr said Monday. “Once in the network, the hackers spent weeks conducting reconnaissance, uploading malicious software and stealing login credentials.”

Why It Matters

The personal data of more than 147 million U.S. citizens was compromised in the breach of the systems of the credit reporting company.

The data included name, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates, addresses, and other data of the victims, enough to open a bank account in their names.

“This data has economic value, and these thefts can feed China’s development of artificial intelligence tools as well as the creation of intelligence-targeting packages,” Barr said.

“In addition to the thefts of sensitive personal data, our cases reveal a pattern of state-sponsored computer intrusions and thefts by China targeting trade secrets and confidential business information.”

The relations between the two countries have been strained due to security breach allegations by the U.S. government against China. The government has restricted Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and sought action against social media app TikTok on charges of spying on behalf of Beijing.

What’s Next

The FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said that the law enforcement agency couldn't take the indicted into custody immediately and “lock them up,” but that it will not give up. “[One] day, these criminals will slip up, and when they do, we’ll be there.”

“We in law enforcement will not let hackers off the hook just because they’re halfway around the world. We’ve got to do everything we can to keep people safe, secure, and confident online,” Bowdich added.

Price Action

Equifax's shares closed 0.57% lower at $154.72 on Monday. The shares were unchanged in the after-hours market.

Photo Credit: Screenshot Of Online Press Conference 

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