Federal prosecutors are expected to unseal criminal charges as soon as this week against hackers linked to the Chinese government who have allegedly engaged in a sophisticated scheme to break into U.S. technology service providers in order to compromise the networks of their clients, reports the Wall Street Journal. U.S. officials described the hacking campaign as one of the most audacious and damaging orchestrated by China, intended to steal intellectual property and support Beijing’s espionage goals. The hacks have allowed intruders potential access to scores of U.S. companies and government agencies that rely on the service providers for a wide range of digital tasks, such as the remote management of technology infrastructure or cloud storage.
The charges are intended as the latest in a flurry of recent Justice Department actions to admonish China for its cyber-enabled economic espionage on U.S. companies. Private-sector cybersecurity researchers identified those attacks as the work of a hacking enterprise known as “APT 10” or “cloudhopper,” which they link to Beijing. APT stands for “advanced persistent threat.” The charges are likely to further inflame relations between Washington and Beijing, which were strained last week after the arrest in Canada of a top executive of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. at the behest of U.S. authorities. Prosecutors in October unsealed charges against 10 Chinese intelligence officers and other individuals that described in elaborate detail a methodical, persistent campaign to hack into several U.S. aviation companies. The Justice Department followed up with more charges against a Chinese state-owned firm and its Taiwan partner for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the U.S.’s largest memory-chip maker, Micron Technology Inc. The charges represent the most significant effort yet by law-enforcement officials to publicize and condemn Beijing’s intrusions of U.S. businesses.