Law Enforcement

U.S. indicts three hackers linked to APT3


The Justice Department unsealed three indictments against what it says are three Chinese hackers who, under the cover of operating a security firm, used phishing email and malicious software to break into three western corporations' computer systems to steal vital commercial data.

The indictments were made in absentia and date back to September. The Justice Department indicated that arrest warrants have been issued for the three suspects.

The Justice Department said on Nov. 28 that it had indicted Chinese nationals Wu Yingzhuo, Dong Hao and Xia Lei for computer hacking, theft of trade secrets, conspiracy and identity theft directed at U.S. and foreign employees and computers of Moody's Analytics, Siemens AG and Trimble Inc. between 2011 and May 2017.  The three hackers work for the China-based Internet security firm Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited, which is also known as Boyuse, said the statement.

Boyuse has been linked by some cybersecurity experts to the notorious hacking group known as APT3, which in turn has been associated with the Chinese government's Ministry of State Security.

The indictments allege the three hackers made off with sensitive internal data, and one company's trade secrets.

According to the indictment, in 2013 and 2014, Xia regularly read a Moody's economist's stolen emails that contained found proprietary and confidential economic analyses, findings and opinions.

In 2014, the indictment alleges Dong broke into Siemens's computer networks to get employees' usernames and passwords in order to access Siemens' network. In 2015, it alleges, all three stole about 407 gigabytes of proprietary commercial data related to Siemens's energy, technology and transportation businesses.

In 2015 and 2016, Wu accessed Trimble’s network and stole files containing data related to the company's Global Navigation Satellite Systems technology, according to the indictment. The 275 megabytes of stolen data could have helped a Trimble competitor develop and market a similar product without incurring research and development costs.

The U.S. and China have tried to forge cyber agreements putting state-sponsored economic espionage out of bounds, but there have been signs in the past that these are not holding up. Many of the acts alleged in the Boyuse indictments took place months after the September 2015 accord.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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