Federal prosecutors say Chinese citizens are accused of cyber-attacking more than 100 companies in the United States and abroad, including software development companies, computer makers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, gaming companies, nonprofits, universities, research institutes, as well as foreign governments, politicians and civil society representatives in Hong Kong.
US officials have not claimed that the hackers worked on behalf of Beijing, but Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen expressed his exasperation in a statement to the Chinese authorities, saying that they at least turn a blind eye to cyber espionage.
“We know that the Chinese authorities must be at least as capable as law enforcement authorities here and in similar countries to enforce laws against access to computers. But they choose not to do so,” Rosen said.
He also said that one of the Chinese defendants boasted to a colleague that he was “very close” to the Chinese Ministry of State Security and that he would be protected “unless something very big happens.”
“No responsible government is deliberately harboring cybercriminals targeting victims around the world,” Rosen said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an email requesting comments.
Beijing has repeatedly denied responsibility for hacking in the face of numerous allegations by US authorities.
Along with the alleged hackers, US prosecutors also charged two Malaysian businessmen, 46-year-old Wong Ong Hua, and 32-year-old Ling Yang Ching, who were accused of conspiring. with two of the digital spies to take advantage of accessing computers, targeting video game companies in the United States, France, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
The Justice Department said the pair operated through a Malaysian company called SEA Gamer Mall. Messages left to the company were not returned immediately. Messages sent to alleged email addresses were not immediately answered by hackers.
John Demers, the US attorney general for national security, said on Wednesday that Malaysian defendants were in custody, but were likely to oppose extradition.
The Justice Department said it obtained search warrants this month, resulting in the confiscation of hundreds of dead drop accounts, servers, domain names and web pages used by alleged hackers to help siphon data from their victims. .
The department said Microsoft had taken steps to block hackers and that the company’s “measures were a significant part” of the US’s overall effort to neutralize them.
The company acknowledged this in a statement praising government officials for “taking steps to protect our customers.”