Four Chinese military officers have been charged by the US over the Equifax data breach which affected over 147m Americans as well as UK and Canadian customers back in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses from the credit rating giant.
US Attorney General William Barr announced the indictments and called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”.
According to court documents, the four Chinese military officers are allegedly members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute. The documents also said that they spent weeks inside Equifax’s systems during which time they broke into security networks and stole personal data.
The nine-count indictment even accuses the group of stealing trade secrets such as data compilation and database designs. At this time, the whereabouts of the four Chinese military officers remains unknown and it is highly unlikely that they will ever come to the US to stand trial for their crimes.
Equifax data breach
While the people responsible for the Equifax data breach may have been found, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich explained that justice won’t be possible any time soon, saying:
“We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up — not today, anyway. But one day, these criminals will slip up, and when they do, we’ll be there.”
Bowdich also said that so far there has been no evidence that the data obtained in the hack has been used to hijack customer’s bank accounts or credit cards.
In a statement, Equifax CEO Mark Begr expressed his gratitude to the Justice Department for carrying out its investigation, saying:
“We are grateful to the Justice Department and the FBI for their tireless efforts in determining that the military arm of China was responsible for the cyberattack on Equifax in 2017. It is reassuring that our federal law enforcement agencies treat cybercrime – especially state-sponsored crime – with the seriousness it deserves, and that the Justice Department is committed to pursuing those who target U.S. consumers, businesses and our government. The attack on Equifax was an attack on U.S. consumers as well as the United States.”