Feb 10, 2020 - World

Justice Department indicts 4 Chinese military members for Equifax breach

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Justice Department announced Monday that it indicted four members of China's military in relation to the 2017 Equifax data breach that compromised the data of more than 147 million Americans.

Why it matters: The announcement comes at a fraught time for U.S.-China relations — just weeks after the signing of a critical "phase one" trade deal that ratcheted down economic tension between the two nations — and marks only the second time that the U.S. government has charged Chinese military hackers.

  • The hack, which also exposed some of the company's trade secrets, also brings the issue of Chinese government-backed intellectual property theft — a top Trump administration worry — back to the forefront.
  • It isn't the first massive China-backed corporate hack, as a Marriott data breach that affected as many as 500 million customers as far back as 2014 was tied to Chinese intelligence services in 2018.

The big picture: Attorney General William Barr called the breach, which utilized a security vulnerability in the software for the firm's online dispute portal, a "deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people."

  • The DOJ said that the hackers "ran approximately 9,000 queries on Equifax’s system, obtaining names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for nearly half of all American citizens."

Read the indictment:

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Cybersecurity is a government game

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Forget lone hackers and gangs of digital outlaws: Governments, acting for good and ill, have become the prime movers in the cybersecurity world.

What's happening: Three big stories this week drove home government's central role in a myriad of major breaches, hacks and scams.

Massive MGM data breach: Guests' personal details posted on hacking site

The MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

An MGM Resorts security breach last summer resulted in the personal details of 10.6 million guests published on a hacking forum this week, ZDNet first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Federal government employees and high-profile guests were affected by the breach, according to analysis by data breach monitoring service Under the Breach and ZDNet — including officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Microsoft staffers and singer Justin Bieber.

A China-centric 21st century

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With the U.S. paralyzed by political gridlock and western institutions stagnating, China is positioning itself as the primary architect of new power structures in the 21st century.

Why it matters: If the U.S. continues to anger allies, withdraw from global institutions, and ignore much of the developing world, in 20 years it may wake up to find itself resigned to a small corner in a world defined and dominated by China.

Go deeperArrowFeb 5, 2020 - World