Computer Fraud; Economic Espionage; Wire Fraud; Conspiracy to Commit Computer Fraud; Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage; Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud


Wang Qian
Xu Ke
Liu Lei
Wu Zhiyong

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February 10, 2020

Chinese Hackers Charged in Equifax Breach

Four Chinese military-backed hackers were indicted in connection with the 2017 cyberattack against Equifax, which led to the largest known theft of personally identifiable information ever carried out by state-sponsored actors.


On January 28, 2020, a Grand Jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned an indictment charging Wang Qian, Xu Ke, Liu Lei, and Wu Zhiyong, with Computer Fraud, Economic Espionage, Wire Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Computer Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage, and Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. The defendants were members of the 54th Research Institute, which was a component of the People’s Liberation Army (“PLA”), the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China.


As alleged in the indictment, beginning at least by on or about May 13, 2017, and continuing through on or about July 30, 2017, members of the 54th Research Institute conspired with each other to hack into the protected computers of Equifax, to maintain unauthorized access to those computers, and to steal sensitive personally identifiable information, proprietary database schemas, and data compilations. The PLA hackers obtained names, birth dates, and social security numbers for approximately 145 million American citizens, in addition to driver’s license numbers for at least 10 million Americans stored in Equifax’s databases. The hackers also collected credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information belonging to approximately 200,000 American consumers. In a single breach, the PLA obtained sensitive identifying information for nearly half of all American citizens, and personally identifiable information belonging to nearly a million citizens of the United Kingdom and Canada.


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