Washington, Feb 11 : Four Chinese military officers have been charged by a US court with carrying out a huge cyber-attack on several US companies, including the credit rating agency Equifax. The attack was carried out in 2017, which affected more than 147 million Americans and some people in the UK and Canada. The hackers stole sensitive personal data, including names and addresses. Announcing the nine-count indictments, Attorney General William Barr termed the hack as "one of the largest data breaches in history".
He said the four officers belonged to the People's Liberation Army's 54th Research Institute, which is a component of Chinese military. "This makes it highly unlikely that they will be arrested anytime soon or ever stand trial in the US", said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. The breach had taken place between mid-May and the end of July 2017, wherein the hackers had allegedly accessed information and routed it through 34 servers in nearly 20 countries to try and hide their actual location. Equifax CEO Mark Begor said, "He was happy with the fact that the federal law enforcement agencies are treating such state-sponsored crime with all the seriousness it deserves." According to a report of New York Times, Equifax had failed to take proper steps to guard the information and they waited far too long to inform the public about the breach. This had forced the resignation of the then Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who had to testify before Congress and make a public apology.
The company was forced to pay $700 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission. At least $ 300 million of the settlement went towards paying for identity theft services and other related expenses, run up by the victims. Of this, $300 million went towards paying for the identity theft services and related expenses were incurred by the victims. China has not yet commented on the US charges.
This is not the first time the US has charged members of the Chinese military with hacking US companies. Equifax was one of a series of large data breaches linked to China, though it is not the only one. Others include health care providers and, most significantly, the theft of data from the Office of Personnel Management which carried sensitive records for almost all US federal employees. This move by the US is part of the US strategy to return to using the weapon of public indictments, to increase pressure upon China again. (UNI)