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U.S. charges four Chinese military hackers in 2017 Equifax breach

2020-02-10 14:37 by
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Four members of China's military have been charged with hacking into Equifax's computer systems in 2017 and stealing the personal information of about 145 million Americans from the credit reporting agency.

According to the indictment, in addition to the personal information (names, birthdates, Social Security numbers) of 145 million Americans, the hackers also obtained driver's license numbers of 10 million Americans. They also had access to other data, including credit card numbers, from another 200,000 Americans. And nearly 1 million people from the UK and Canada were also affected.

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the scale of the theft in 2017 was "staggering" and the suspects obtained information for nearly 150 million Americans. The attorney general said the hack was one of the largest on record and was a "deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people."

"For years we have witnessed China's voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans," Barr said at a press conference. "This data has economic value, and these thefts can feed China's development of artificial intelligence tools as well as the creation of intelligence targeting packages."

Equifax disclosed the breach in September 2017, setting off a cascade of criticism over its security practices and response to the hack. Then-CEO Richard Smith resigned ahead of congressional hearings as the scandal deepened. The credit-reporting company later agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle federal and state probes — with $425 million set aside for affected customers.

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