Last Monday, February 10, 2020, United States prosecutors officially charged four Chinese military hackers for the 2017 Equifax data breach. The four Chinese nationals were allegedly behind the data breach that affected more than 147 million people.
The four nationals, identified as Liu Lei, Wang Qian, Wu Zhiyong, and Xu Ke, received a nine-charge indictment last Monday. According to Tech Crunch, the four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were part of APT10, a group responsible for hacking numerous companies in the United States.
The indictment accuses the four individuals of stealing personal information. Compromised information included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, as well as credit card details. Apart from stealing the aforementioned data, the members of the People’s Liberation Army is also accused of trading such information, reports the Washington Post.
In a statement, Attorney General William P. Barr said the acts committed by the Chinese military were “a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people.”
Moreover, The Verge also notes that Barr also remarked, “the scale of the theft was staggering. The deliberate, indiscriminate theft of vast amounts of sensitive personal data of civilians, as occurred here, cannot be countenanced.”
Equifax’s breach in 2017 was considered the largest of its kind and it remains one of the largest cyber attacks on the United States to date. Apart from the United States, the Equifax data security incident also impacted countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, reveals the indictment released by the grand jury.
Although customer information was released, The Verge says the FBI maintains that there is still no evidence showing that the data was being used for malicious intents and purposes.
Despite the charges filed against the four members of the People’s Liberation Army, the Washington Post reports that the Chinese government vehemently denies its involvement in the incident. Xinhua Net notes that representative and spokesperson Geng Shuang said the government is against such crimes. “We firmly oppose and combat cyber attacks of any kind. China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity,” states Shuang.
The repercussions of the incident remain alarming, particularly to individuals and Americans. According to Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the information obtained by the hackers could be used in furthering the artificial intelligence capabilities of the countries who mined the said information, reports CNN.
Moreover, the incident has also led to financial losses to Equifax as well as breached the privacy and security of customers. Equifax was reportedly ordered to pay a whopping $575 million in fines, notes Tech Crunch.