FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich’s Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Charges Against Chinese Hackers
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich delivered the following remarks during a virtual press conference at the Department of Justice announcing charges against two Chinese hackers for their roles in a global computer intrusion campaign targeting intellectual property and confidential business information, including COVID-19 research. The indictment alleges that Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazh worked with the Guangdong State Security Department (GSSD) of the Ministry of State Security (MSS) while also targeting victims worldwide for personal profit. (Remarks prepared for delivery.)
As Director Wray said in his recent speech at the Hudson Institute, the greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information, intellectual property, and economic vitality is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China.
China is determined to use every means at its disposal—including the theft of intellectual property from U.S. companies, labs, and universities—to degrade the United States’ economic, technological, and military advantages. The scale and scope of the hacking activity sponsored by the PRC intelligence services against the United States and our international partners is unlike any other threat we’re facing today. But China’s hacking of foreign companies to benefit Chinese state-owned enterprises is only part of its playbook.
We’re bringing these charges today to put the Chinese leaders directing these cyberattacks on notice: There are serious risks and consequences for stealing our technology and our intellectual property. Even as we stand here today, China is facing a degradation of their image on the world stage as a trusted partner. Other nations partnering with China in economic development projects should closely consider their alliances with a country that has so little regard for international law.
These hackers, directed by the Chinese intelligence services, have targeted and continue to target companies and laboratories in countries around the world. China uses its economic influence to pressure those countries not to publicly expose or challenge their illegal actions. China steals intellectual property and research, which bolsters its economy. And then they use that illicit gain as a weapon to silence any country that would dare challenge their illegal actions. This type of economic coercion isn’t what we expect from a trusted world leader. It’s what we expect from an organized criminal syndicate.
Cybercrime is a major threat to our national security, and it’s growing every day. At the FBI, we are tackling this problem the same way we’ve successfully addressed other types of crime: through deterrence. And we’re doing that by identifying the perpetrators of cybercrimes and making every effort to hold them accountable to the rule of law.
Through investigation and attribution, our Cyber Division investigators and analysts, in field offices through the country, imposes consequences—not just on the hackers themselves but also on the individuals and institutions directing those hackers and facilitating their actions. Indictments are just one way we do that. I’m proud of the tenacity of the FBI agents and analysts, as well as the assistant United States attorneys who doggedly pursued these perpetrators.
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By indicting Dong and Li, we’re condemning their actions and those of the MSS officers at the Guangdong State Security Department who provided them with material support and direction.
Unfortunately, China doesn’t just use its hackers to target R&D or intellectual property. As we demonstrate in the indictment, China is also willing to use their intelligence services’ cyber capabilities to target Chinese dissidents outside of China and protesters supporting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.
I want to make one important point, which is the same one I have made before: Our concern is not with the Chinese people, or with Chinese Americans, but specifically with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. Confronting this threat effectively does not mean we should not do business with the Chinese, host Chinese students, welcome Chinese visitors, or co-exist with China as a country on the world stage. What it does mean is that when China violates our criminal laws and international norms, we will not tolerate it. We’re going to hold people accountable. We’ll use our unique authorities, our experience, and our capabilities—with the help of our partners at home and around the world—to fight this threat, every day.