WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Four Chinese nationals have been charged in a global hacking campaign aimed at dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the United States and abroad, the US Justice Department said on Monday.
The charges were announced as the United States and a coalition of allies on Monday accused China’s Ministry of State Security of a global cyber hacking campaign, specifically attributing a large Microsoft attack disclosed earlier this year to hackers working on Beijing’s behalf.
The hacking was sponsored by the Ministry of State Security and focused on information that would significantly benefit Chinese companies and businesses, including research and development processes, according to the indictment cited by the Justice Department.
Reaction from the defendants was not immediately available.
The defendants and officials in the Hainan State Security Department (HSSS) tried to hide the Chinese government’s role in the information theft by using a front company, according to the indictment, which was returned in May and unsealed Friday.
The campaign targeted trade secrets in industries including aviation, defense, education, government, health care, biopharmaceutical and maritime industries, according to a Justice Department statement.
Victims were in Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“These criminal charges once again highlight that China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments,” Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in the statement.
It said the two-count indictment alleges that Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin and Zhu Yunmin were HSSD officers responsible for coordinating computer hackers and linguists at the front companies.
The fourth defendant, Wu Shurong, an employee at front company Hainan Xiandun Technology Development Co. Ltd., “created malware, hacked into computer systems operated by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other Hainan Xiandun hackers,” the Justice Department said.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Mark Heinrich)