Washington: The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Chinese intelligence officers for conducting or enabling repeated intrusions into private companies' computer systems in the United States of America (USA) and abroad "for over five years" on Tuesday (local time).
In a statement released on Tuesday (local time), the DOJ stated: "Chinese intelligence officers and those working under their direction, which included hackers and co-opted company insiders, conducted or otherwise enabled repeated intrusions into private companies' computer systems in the United States and abroad for over five years. The conspirators' ultimate goal was to steal, among other data, intellectual property and confidential business information, including information related to a turbofan engine used in commercial airliners."
DOJ revealed that charged intelligence officers Zha Rong and Chai Meng and other co-conspirators worked for the Nanjing based Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security (JSSD) which is a provincial foreign intelligence arm of the People's Republic of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS).
"The MSS, and by extension the JSSD, is primarily responsible for domestic counter-intelligence, non-military foreign intelligence, and aspects of political and domestic security," the statement read.
It cited Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers as saying, "For the third time since only September, the National Security Division, with its US Attorney partners, has brought charges against Chinese intelligence officers from the JSSD and those working at their direction and control for stealing American intellectual property. This is just the beginning. Together with our federal partners, we will redouble our efforts to safeguard America's ingenuity and investment."
Terming the state-sponsored hacking a national threat to the United States, U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said, "State-sponsored hacking is a direct threat to our national security. This action is yet another example of criminal efforts by the MSS to facilitate the theft of private data for China's commercial gain. The concerted effort to steal, rather than simply purchase, commercially available products should offend every company that invests talent, energy, and shareholder money into the development of products."
Earlier in October, DOJ revealed that a JSSD intelligence officer was extradited to the Southern District of Ohio, on charges of attempting to steal trade secrets related to jet aircraft engines.
A spy working for China's Ministry of State Security was also arrested on charges of economic espionage and attempting to steal trade secrets from several US aviation and aerospace companies.
The statement reveals that the hackers used different techniques, including spear phishing, sowing multiple different strains of malware into company computer systems, using the victim companies' own websites as "watering holes" to compromise website visitors' computers and domain hijacking through the compromise of domain registrars.
FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Field Office John Brown called the hacking "relentless".
"The threat posed by Chinese government-sponsored hacking activity is real and relentless. Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of our private sector, international and U.S. government partners, is sending a strong message to the Chinese government and other foreign governments involved in hacking activities. We are working together to vigorously investigate and hold hackers accountable regardless of their attempts to hide their illicit activities and identities," he asserted.
The statement released by DOJ reiterated that charges contained in the indictment are accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.