The US Justice Department announced charges against five Chinese nationals including two Malaysians who ran global hacking operations for about six years stealing identities and video game technology, plant ransomware, and spy on Hong Kong activists.
Three of the Chinese suspects operated out of Chengdu 404, a Sichuan-based company that purported to offer network security services for other businesses. They have hacked the computers of hundreds of companies and organizers around the world to collect identities, hijack systems for ransom, and remotely use thousands of computers to mine for cryptocurrency like bitcoin.
It said that two other Chinese nationals who formerly worked for Chengdu 404, and the two Malaysians, were indicted for hacking into major gaming companies in order to steal their secrets and “gaming artifacts,” likely to be tradable in-game chits and credits and resell them. Cybersecurity had recognized seven of them as the “APT41” hacking organization, identified based on their shared tools and techniques.
Some people had thought that the group might be run by the Chinese government, the indictment did not identify a strong official connection. But according to court filings, Jiang Lizhi, one of the Chengdu 404 hackers, boasted to a colleague in 2012 that he was protected by China’s Ministry of State Security, and indicated they were protected if they did not hack domestically.
Federal prosecutor, Michael Sherwin, said in a statement, “Some of these criminal actors believed their association with the PRC provided them free license to hack and steal across the globe.”
In 2018, Chengdu 404, launched a program that collects information from people involved in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. But the filings do not indicate how the information was used.
All of them face a range of charges including computer and wire fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and racketeering. The five Chinese remain at large, but two Malaysians were arrested in Malaysia recently.
Source: WION News