National Security

U.S. Charges Chinese Hackers for Decades-Long Espionage Operations

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The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled a landmark indictment against two Chinese Communist Party hackers who law enforcement officials say conducted massive cyber espionage operations against U.S. businesses and academic institutions, including those working on coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers described the cyber attacks as a "sweeping global computer intrusion campaign" that targeted "intellectual property and confidential business information held by the private sector, including COVID-19-related treatment, testing, and vaccine."

These attacks have been ongoing for at least the last 10 years and have impacted nongovernmental groups, anti-China dissidents, and human-rights activists living in the United States and Europe.

Backed by the Chinese government, these hackers stole "terabytes" worth of information from U.S. high-tech and pharmaceutical industries, according to the indictment.

"China is using cyber-enabled theft as part of a global campaign to ‘rob, replicate, and replace’ non-Chinese companies in the global marketplace," Demers said. "China is providing a safe haven for criminals who, as in this case, are hacking in part for their own personal profit but willing to help the state."

Tech companies located in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom also were targeted.

"China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran, and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cyber criminals in exchange for those criminals being ‘on call’ to work for the benefit of the state, here to feed the Chinese Communist Party’s insatiable hunger for American and other non-Chinese companies’ hard-earned intellectual property, including COVID-19 research," Demers said.