Millions of Americans Ensnared in Chinese Hacking Operation

( – On Monday, March 25th, 2024, The Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging seven Chinese nationals in a widespread hacking operation spanning 14 years. The U.S. State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information about the seven individuals. No arrests are expected at this time as all seven men are believed to be located in China which does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S.

The seven men are part of a hacking group called Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (APT 31), AKA, Violent Typhoon or Judgement Panda. APT 31, as part of a cyber espionage program operated by the Hubei State Security Department located in Wuhan, participated in global hacking campaigns that targeted U.S. and foreign government officials and political dissidents of China. Thousands of American citizens and companies were targeted.

The hackers sent emails that appeared to be from credible news outlets or journalists, containing links. When clicked, the links gave the hackers information such as location data and IP addresses which the hackers used to perform more sophisticated surveillance. Several home and business routers along with other electronic devices were compromised.

The Biden administration and the British government joined Monday to sanction the hackers. The allies intend to communicate that “malicious cyber activities…” are “unacceptable and violate international norms.”

Liu Pengyo, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, claims the U.S. has jumped to “unwarranted conclusions” and the accusations against China are baseless and lacking evidence. The Chinese Embassy denies all allegations.

According to U.S. Attorney Breon Peace the allegations “pull back the curtain” on the vast Chinese cyber-attack that targeted presidential campaign officials in 2020, opponents of the Chinese government, and several companies involved in defense, telecommunications, finance, research, and engineering. The UK’s government accused the Chinese group of “malicious cyber campaigns” targeting the Electoral Commission and politicians.

The New Zealand Herald reported the New Zealand government’s parliament was also a victim of the APT 31 cyber-attack.

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