US Charged Four Chinese Military Hackers Behind the 2017 Equifax Breach

On Monday, February 10, 2020, the US indicated that four Chinese military hackers were responsible for the 2017 security breach of a world’s largest credit reporting agency, Equifax Inc. Citing the security breach had affected nearly 150 million American citizens, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday, “This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people.”

Equifax Breach

Barr said, referring Equifax incident to one of the largest security data breaches in US history, the private information of roughly 147 million people including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and driver’s license data was compromised by the 2017 Equifax breach.

The US announcement was a part of American’s aggressive campaign to eliminate all Chinese espionage activities in the country. On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded by denying the allegations, “China’s government, military, and their personnel “never engage in cyber theft of trade secrets.”

As per the Reuters report, the Chinese personnel spent weeks in the Equifax system after hacking into computer networks and stole personal data of the customers as well as companies’ secret information. It was reported that the hackers used nearly 34 servers from different countries to obscure their true location.

Hailing the US Justice Department, Equifax Chief Executive Mark Begor said, “It is reassuring that our federal law enforcement agencies treat cybercrime – especially state-sponsored crime – with the seriousness it deserves.” Not only this, the US officials have recalled previous incidents involving Chinese hackers including the 2015 breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

According to Reuters, “The 2015 breach had exposed the names, Social Security numbers, and addresses of more than 22 million US federal employees and contractors as well as 5.6 million fingerprints.”

Chinese Counterclaim against US Espionage

Michael Daniel, who currently serves as president of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a cybersecurity information sharing group said, the Equifax hack had the same pattern as happened in the past Chinese cyber-attacks. Citing the serious security threat due to breach, Daniel added, “Its primary utility would be in developing potential targets for approach by intelligence operatives or feeding artificial intelligence [and] machine learning tools.”

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged a strict against the Chinese hacking. Sasse claimed, “The Chinese Communist Party will leave no stone unturned in its effort to steal and exploit American data. These indictments are good news, but we’ve got to do more to protect Americans’ data from the Chinese Communist Party influence operations.”

Referring to the current situation on cyber-attack, both the Senate Banking and House of Representatives Financial Services Committees would be pursuing to legislate tougher rules for the protection of consumer data.

The Equifax data breach has brought far-reaching effects on the consumers’ credit industry and millions of Americans as it had collected sensitive financial information of the costumers. As a result of the breach, the credit company had agreed to pay up to $700 million for the security settlement.

On countermove, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng said on Tuesday that Beijing was also a victim of US “cyber intrusion, surveillance and monitoring activities.” Geng insisted, “We have lodged stern representations to the US and asked it to make explanations and immediately stop such activities.”

I’m Roshan, a journalist, blogger and music lover. I like covering global news related to finance, business, and technology. Focusing on the collection of true and reliable information, I rely on working by conducting interviews with business leaders and talking to the inside sources of companies.

You can reach out to me at: [email protected]

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