Two Chinese hackers face federal charges in major cybersecurity bust involving Hanford site

Chinese Hackers

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced charges in a major cybersecurity bust involving two Chinese hackers, with the indictment handed up by a grand jury in Eastern Washington.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane will handle the case, as the hack was first discovered on Department of Energy computers at the Hanford site.

According to the DOJ, 34-year-old Li Xiaoyu and 33-year-old Dong Jiazhi not only hacked the DOE, but hacked foreign gaming companies and pharmaceutical companies, including firms working on COVID-19 research and vaccine testing.

“In at least one instance, the hackers sought to extort cryptocurrency from a victim entity, by threatening to release the victim’s stole source code on the Internet. More recently, the defendants probed for vulnerabilities in computer networks of companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatments,” the DOJ said.

“There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade secrets and intellectual property stolen,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Bill Hyslop.

The indictment said Li and Dong targeted several other counties, including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The DOJ called the hack “state-sponsored” by the Chinese government and said the hacking had been ongoing for nearly 10 years.

“Our concern is not with the Chinese people or Chinese-Americans,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. “Our concern is with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist party.”

“The complicated nature of cyber investigations is only exacerbated when the criminal is backed by the resources of a foreign government,’ said FBI Special Agent in Charge Raymond Duda. “The nature and value of the material stolen by these hackers cannot just be measured in dollars and was indicative of being state-driven. This case demonstrates the FBI’s dedication to pursuing these criminals no matter who is sanctioning their activities.”