Equifax Data Heist, Huawei Linked Chinese Army Officers Accused
Officers in the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, an key department of the Chinese military has been accused of stealing information on millions of Equifax customers an organisation whose credit check information is used by Australian banks and hundreds of Companies doing credit checks.
The US has charged four Chinese military officers after the hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses, Equifax is used by Australian retailer’s car dealerships and manufacturers along with mortgage and loan providers to run credit checks on individuals.
At this stage It’s not known how much Australian data was stolen.
This is the same Chinese Army linked with Huawei who was accused of using their devices to supply information to People’s Liberation Army officers before the US and Australian Governments banned the Company from providing services to carriers rolling out 5G networks in Australia.
Huawei staff have been accused of working directly Chinese military in the past.
The Company was founded by former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineer Ren Zhengfei.
The Australian Government Intelligence services suspects Huawei has deep ties to China’s military and thus poses a security threat.
Huawei is today still installing 4G fibre network routers equipment for carriers such as Telstra and Optus as well as TPG, these networks are also supplying Huawei routers for 4G and 5G connections. Meriton apartments were recently exposed as having thousands of Huawei routers connected to carrier networks.
When the hack was discovered Equifax said hackers accessed the information between mid-May and the end of July 2017.
The accused allegedly routed traffic through 34 servers in nearly 20 countries to try and hide their true location, it’s not known if Huawei communication gear was used to pull of the theft of data.
Announcing the indictments, Attorney General William Barr called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”.
The US is claiming that members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military, spent weeks in the company’s system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data, the documents said.
The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs.
The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown, and it is highly unlikely that they will stand trial in the US.
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up – not today, anyway.”
Equifax CEO Mark Begr said in a statement that the company was grateful for the investigation.
“It is reassuring that our federal law enforcement agencies treat cybercrime – especially state-sponsored crime – with the seriousness it deserves.”
Critics have accused the company of failing to take proper steps to guard information and for waiting too long to inform the public about the hack.
In a statement Mr Barr said: “This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people.
“Today we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us.”
China has not yet commented on the charges.