US Charges Two Hackers Linked to Chinese Intelligence

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein addressed charges against two Chinese hackers.                  Alex Wong  Getty Images

USA authorities said the two worked in association with the Chinese ministry of state security.

Rosenstein said the threats posed by the hacking operation, which dates back to 2006, had never been more severe or more pervasive, and were part of China's ultimate goal to replace the U.S. as the world's leading superpower.

The move comes as Canada is weighing whether to allow China's flagship tech company, Huawei Technologies, to supply gear for next-generation 5G mobile networks.

The Canadian government has joined its USA and U.K. allies in calling out China for a state-sponsored hacking campaign to steal data from military service members, government agencies and private companies in the United States and almost a dozen other countries. It also broke into computers that held data belonging to NASA and the USA navy and took private identify information of more than 100,000 navy personnel, the indictment says.

More than 90 percent of the Department's cases alleging economic espionage over the past seven years involve China, he said, adding that over two-thirds of the Department's cases involving thefts of trade secrets are connected to China.

Those are companies that remotely manage the information technology infrastructure of USA government agencies, more than 45 tech companies in at least a dozen US states, and governments around the world, officials said.

Through these service providers, the group gained unauthorised access to a wide range of companies in Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., installing malware that allowed them to steal user credentials and data. The defendants worked for a company in China called Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Company, or Huaying Haitai, they said.

In an operation coordinated with U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the move was being made to rebuff "China's economic aggression". They're said to have stolen gigabytes of data from organizations involved in aerospace, satellites, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas exploration and production, communications, and computer processors.

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He said the scale of the hacking was "shocking and outrageous".

The charges leveled against accused hackers Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, both of whom have multiple aliases, include conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The Navy referred questions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He said he was not optimistic that the pair would be prosecuted in the U.S., but that's not the point.

"The Chinese government is attempting to acquire or steal not only the plans and intentions of the United States government, but also the ideas and innovations of the very people that make our economy so incredibly successful", he said.

'We hope to see a change in behaviour from the Chinese government.

Over the past several years, as companies around the globe have sought to cut down information technology spending, they have increasingly relied on outside contractors to store and transfer data.

Global technology giants IBM and SAP were among the many managed service providers that had been hacked, according to Fairfax Media.

This is the latest in a series of hacking cases brought by the United States against alleged Chinese hackers.

The relationship between the USA and China is now strained over ongoing trade disputes and alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property.

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