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Indictment in Alleged Hacking Conspiracy

July 21, 2021

The Department of Justice on Monday announced the indictment of four individuals, including three Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officers, accused of involvement in a hacking operation that targeted foreign universities, government organizations and companies to steal information, including proprietary research and trade secrets.

The indictment alleges that the Hainan Province Ministry of State Security -- a provincial foreign intelligence arm of China’s Ministry of State Security -- created a front company that employed hackers who stole data from foreign companies and universities involved in maritime research and development and virus and vaccine research. Alleged targets for hacking attempts spanned at least 12 countries and included universities or research institutes in California, Florida, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington State, as well as the National Institutes of Health.

The indictment further alleges that defendants coordinated with staff and professors at various universities in Hainan Province and elsewhere in China to help manage the front company and to identify and recruit hackers.

The defendants, all Chinese nationals and residents, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

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