The United States and countries around the world have accused the People’s Republic of China, or PRC, of conducting and participating in malicious activities in cyberspace, including ransomware attacks, as well as theft of intellectual property and information that would directly benefit Chinese companies.
The United States is deeply concerned that the PRC has fostered an intelligence enterprise that includes contract hackers who also conduct unsanctioned cyber operations worldwide, including for their own personal profit. The PRC’s pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world.
As an example of intellectual property and information theft, a federal grand jury in San Diego, California, indicted four nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China in May, charging them with conducting a campaign to hack into the computer systems of dozens of companies, universities, and government entities in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018.
The indictment, which was unsealed by the U.S Justice Department on July 16, states that the attacks were largely focused on gathering information that would benefit Chinese companies and commercial sectors. Of particular interest to the conspiracy was information that would enable the circumvention of lengthy and resource-intensive research and development processes.
Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin and Zhu Yunmin, were Officers in the Hainan State Security Department, a provincial arm of China’s Ministry of State Security that coordinates, facilitates and manages computer hackers and linguists at MSS front companies to conduct hacking for the benefit of China and its state-owned and state-sponsored instrumentalities. Wu Shurong was a computer hacker who, created malware and hacked into computer systems operated by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other Hainan Xiandun hackers.
The hacking campaign targeted victims in the United States, Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
These malicious cyberattacks took place despite a 2015 agreement between the United States and the PRC to curb cyber-related theft.
“These criminal charges once again highlight China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco.
“As evidenced by the indictment of three MSS officers and one of their contract hackers,” said Secretary Blinken, “the United States will impose consequences on PRC malicious cyber actors for their irresponsible behavior in cyberspace.”