On February 10, 2020, the US Justice Department announced charges against four members of China’s military on suspicion of hacking into Equifax. Charges against members of the Chinese military are rare, but in this case an exception was made for state-sponsored actors who stole the personal data of approximately 145 million Americans.
This breach, in combination with a series of other breaches, has serious implications. Collectively, this data could be used to target American intelligence officers or other officials and interfere with elections. In addition, used in conjunction with artificial intelligence technology, this may allow China to advance its ability to conduct cyber espionage.
Although there is no evidence yet that the Chinese government has used the data from the Equifax hacking, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, commented that China has “pioneered an expansive approach to stealing innovation”. Hopefully these charges will be a powerful deterrent to this type of theft in the future.