DoJ announced that a federal grand jury in San Diego, California, returned an indictment in May charging four nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China with a campaign to hack into the computer systems of dozens of victim companies, universities and government entities in the United States and abroad between 2011 and 2018. The indictment, which was unsealed on Friday, alleges that much of the conspiracys theft was focused on information that was of significant economic benefit to Chinas companies and commercial sectors, including information that would allow the circumvention of lengthy and resource-intensive research and development processes. The defendants and their Hainan State Security Department (HSSD) conspirators sought to obfuscate the Chinese governments role in such theft by establishing a front company, Hainan Xiandun Technology Development Co., Ltd. (海南仙盾) (Hainan Xiandun), since disbanded, to operate out of Haikou, Hainan Province.
The two-count indictment alleges that Ding Xiaoyang (丁晓阳), Cheng Qingmin (程庆民) and Zhu Yunmin (朱允敏), were HSSD officers responsible for coordinating, facilitating and managing computer hackers and linguists at Hainan Xiandun and other MSS front companies to conduct hacking for the benefit of China and its state-owned and sponsored instrumentalities. The indictment alleges that Wu Shurong (吴淑荣) was a computer hacker who, as part of his job duties at Hainan Xiandun, created malware, hacked into computer systems operated by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other Hainan Xiandun hackers.
The conspiracy’s hacking campaign targeted victims in the United States, Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Targeted industries included, among others, aviation, defense, education, government, health care, biopharmaceutical and maritime. Stolen trade secrets and confidential business information included, among other things, sensitive technologies used for submersibles and autonomous vehicles, specialty chemical formulas, commercial aircraft servicing, proprietary genetic-sequencing technology and data, and foreign information to support Chinas efforts to secure contracts for state-owned enterprises within the targeted country (e.g., large-scale high-speed railway development projects). At research institutes and universities, the conspiracy targeted infectious-disease research related to Ebola, MERS, HIV/AIDS, Marburg and tularemia. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)