Chinese nationals indicted for Anthem data breach, other cyber intrusions into U.S. companies

Chinese nationals indicted for Anthem data breach, other cyber intrusions into U.S. companies
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A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted multiple Chinese nationals for cyber intrusions into U.S. companies, including for the 2015 data breach of health company Anthem that impacted over 78 million people.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday in Indianapolis, alleges that Chinese national Fujie Wang and three other anonymous Chinese hackers conducted a “campaign of intrusions into U.S.-based computer systems” beginning in 2014 and installed malware and other tools to enable them to steal personally identifiable information and other confidential business materials.

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The indictment covers breaches at four companies, though Anthem is the only one identified. The other organizations include those in the technology, basic materials and communications sectors.

The Anthem data breach involved the defendants allegedly stealing personal information including names, health identification numbers, birth dates, Social Security numbers and other confidential information. The indictment says the defendants accessed Anthem’s system in late 2014 to conduct reconnaissance, waiting several months to steal any information.

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.

Benczkowski continued, “these defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors, and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII (personally identifiable information.) The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting PII, and will aggressively prosecute perpetrators of hacking schemes like this, wherever they occur.”

The FBI’s Cyber Division is also involved in prosecuting the case. Matt Gorham, the division's assistant director, said Thursday that the decision of Anthem and the other companies impacted to contact the agency allowed the FBI to work quickly to determine who the perpetrators were.

“Because the victim companies promptly notified the FBI of malicious cyber activity, we were able to successfully investigate and identify the perpetrators of this large-scale, highly sophisticated scheme,” Gorham said in a statement. “The FBI is committed to investigating cyber-attacks that compromise American industry and the American people. As we did in this case, we will work side by side with victim companies to ensure justice is served.”