DOJ Charges Five Chinese Military Hackers With “Cyber Espionage”

As you may have heard, this week the Department of Justice indicted five military hacker, for “cyber espionage” against U.S. businesses

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to hack into American entities, to maintain unauthorized access to their computers and to steal information from those entities that would be useful to their competitors in China, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  In some cases, it alleges, the conspirators stole trade secrets that would have been particularly beneficial to Chinese companies at the time they were stolen.  In other cases, it alleges, the conspirators also stole sensitive, internal communications that would provide a competitor, or an adversary in litigation, with insight into the strategy and vulnerabilities of the American entity.


The fact that the U.S. is going after military personnel, and that the indictment directly links the hacking to the government (in the form of those SOEs) is significant. At a press conference, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security suggested that the U.S. has “hard evidence of [the accused’s] hacking that could stand up in court.”

The threat is from members of unit 61398 of the Chinese military, who have targeted the U.S. private sector for commercial advantage. We allege that members of unit 61398 conspired to hack into computers of six U.S. victims to steal information that would provide an economic advantage to the victims’ competitors, including Chinese state-owned enterprises. … This indictment describes, with particularity, specific actions on specific days by specific actors to use their computers to steal information from across our economy. It describes how they targeted information in industries ranging from nuclear, to steel, to renewable energy.