The Associated Press reports:
Four members of the Chinese military have been charged with breaking into the networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, the Justice Department said Monday, blaming Beijing for one of the largest hacks in history.
The 2017 breach affected roughly 145 million people, with the hackers successfully stealing names, Social Security numbers and other personal information stored in the company’s databases.
The four — members of the People’s Liberation Army, an arm of the Chinese military — are also accused of stealing the company’s trade secrets, law enforcement officials said.
From the Justice Department:
This was one of the largest data breaches in history. It came to light in the summer of 2017, when Equifax announced the theft. The scale of the theft was staggering. As alleged in the indictment, the hackers obtained the names, birth dates, and social security numbers of nearly 150 million Americans, and the driver’s license numbers of at least 10 million Americans.
This theft not only caused significant financial damage to Equifax, but invaded the privacy of many millions of Americans, and imposed substantial costs and burdens on them as they have had to take measures to protect against identity theft.
As described in the indictment, the hackers broke into Equifax’s network through a vulnerability in the company’s dispute resolution website. Once in the network, the hackers spent weeks conducting reconnaissance, uploading malicious software, and stealing login credentials, all to set the stage to steal vast amounts of data from Equifax’s systems.
While doing this, the hackers also stole Equifax’s trade secrets, embodied by the compiled data and complex database designs used to store the personal information. Those trade secrets were the product of decades of investment and hard work by the company.