National Security

DOJ Charges Members of Chinese State-Sponsored Hacking Group

FILE PHOTO: A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore

The Department of Justice announced that it is bringing charges against a hacking group of five Chinese nationals—all of whom are currently in China—for their role in hacking over 100 companies in the United States and abroad, according to a Wednesday press release.

Part of a larger group called "APT41," the five hackers targeted private enterprises, institutions such as think tanks and universities, and pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong. APT41 has ties to Chinese intelligence and is allowed to operate illegally by the Chinese Communist Party.

Justice Department officials welcomed the charges and voiced their concern regarding the role China has played in hacking.

"The department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens," Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said. "Regrettably, the Chinese communist party has chosen a different path of making China safe for cybercriminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China."

"Today’s charges, the related arrests, seizures of malware and other infrastructure used to conduct intrusions, and coordinated private sector protective actions reveal yet again the department’s determination to use all of the tools at its disposal and to collaborate with the private sector and nations who support the rule of law in cyberspace," added Assistant Attorney General John Demers. "This is the only way to neutralize malicious nation state cyber activity."

These arrests have come as part of a larger effort made by the Trump administration to defend against Chinese cyberwar activities, as Chinese hackers attempt to steal vital American research on a vaccine for the coronavirus and military technology.

The scope of the DOJ’s efforts in cybersecurity is not restricted to China alone. In the same DOJ press release, department officials announced the arrest of two Malaysian businessmen who conspired with Chinese hackers to target the American video game industry.

"The arrests in Malaysia are a direct result of partnership, cooperation, and collaboration," FBI deputy director David Bowdich said. "As the cyber threat continues to evolve larger than any one agency can address, the FBI remains committed to being an indispensable partner to our federal, international, and private sector partners to stop rampant cyber crime and hold those carrying out these kind of actions accountable."