Coronavirus

Justice Department Charges Two Chinese Nationals with COVID-Related Hacking

By Chas Kissick
Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 2:12 PM

The Justice Department announced the indictments against two Chinese private citizens, Li Xiaoyu (known as Oro0lxy) and Dong Jiazhi, for unauthorized infiltration of computers and the theft of terabytes of COVID-19 research data. The pair were indicted in the Eastern District of Washington.

The indictment details eleven counts for crimes committed from December 2014 to 2020. Charges include conspiracy to access without authorization and damage computers, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, unauthorized access to computers, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, along with seven counts of aggravated identity theft.

The indictment outlines the pair's alleged history, beginning in 2009, of hacking private firms across an array of sectors in Europe, Japan, South Korea and the United States, along with the computers belonging to the Department of Energy located within the Eastern District of Washington.. It alleges that they have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in intellectual property and other data in addition to extorting at least one victim for a ransom at threat of making the stolen data publicly available. It also alleges that Li and Dong hacked entities combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Victims included a Massachusetts biotechnology firm working on a vaccine, a California biotechnology firm researching antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19 and a California diagnostics company involved in the development of COVID-19 testing kits.

The indictment also charges that Li and Dong worked for, and with the assistance of, an officer of the Ministry of State Security (MSS) in Guangdong. Per the indictment, the pair participated in hacks in the interest of the MSS, including the infiltration of U.S. "military satellite programs; military wireless networks and communication systems; high powered microwave and laser systems; a counter-chemical weapons system; and ship-to-helicopter integration systems." Li and Dong also allegedly obtained passwords for personal email accounts belonging to Chinese dissidents on behalf of the MSS on multiple occasions. According to the indictment, at least one dissident was later arrested.

The MSS officer, unnamed in the filing but "known to the grand jury," has not been indicted.

You can read the indictment here and below.

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