Targeted data from telecoms, consumer electronics companies, among others

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Thursday (Dec. 20) that the Department of Justice has charged two Chinese hackers, identified as Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, with "conspiracy to commit computer intrusions against dozens of companies in the United States and around the world."

The hackers are accused of targeting managed service providers (MSPs), which store, process and are supposed to protect commercial data, including sensitive business information and intellectual property.

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The hackers, working for a group called APT-10, are alleged to be working with a the Chinese Ministry of State Security. In addition to telecoms and consumer electronics companies--who are not identified--their victims included "medical equipment, packaging, manufacturing, consulting, healthcare, biotechnology, automotive, oil and gas exploration, and mining."

"It is unacceptable that we continue to uncover cybercrime committed by China against other nations," said Rosenstein. "In 2015, China promised to stop stealing trade secrets and other confidential business information through computer hacking 'with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors,'" he said. "The activity alleged in this indictment violates the commitment that China made to members of the international community."

Related: House Cyber Report Finds Defenses 'Inadequate'

He said the indictments were a step in revealing to the world China's theft of commercial data. "Faced with the detailed factual allegations released today, and the corroborating statements of other victimized nations, China will find it difficult to feign ignorance," he said. 

Rosenstein said that was why Justice was actively looking for "ways to better protect our telecommunications networks."

Back in September, the Trump Administration said it was going on the cybersecurity offensive.

National Security adviser John Bolton said that given that the U.S. is under attack daily from cyberspace, including attempts to "undermine democracy," the government would now use offensive as well as defensive cyber strategies to counter that threat, though he would not said exactly what that offense would entail.

“I am pleased that the President continues to take action against Chinese cyber actors and hold them accountable," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "I look forward to working with the Administration in the new Congress on developing additional levers that we can pull to pressure China to stop its belligerent activities.”

"I commend the Administration for pursuing charges against Chinese government hackers," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. "Regardless of any past commitment, China’s intelligence services have continued brazen attempts to steal the intellectual property of American companies in an effort to continue to exploit the technological gains of others and fuel the goals of the Chinese Communist Party. The United States must lead like-minded countries to counter the Chinese government’s lawless cyberaggression.... How we confront China is the single most important geopolitical issue of our time.”