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Chinese Military Implicated in Equifax 2017 Hack!

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Here is an article by Ashley Shaffer, a correspondent for USA Today that outlines how the Chinese military was responsible for the 2017 hack of over 145 million Americans personal information when they infiltrated Equifax's servers. Read on.

WASHINGTON – Four members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army have been charged with hacking into the computer systems of the credit reporting agency Equifax in 2017, which Attorney General William Barr called a "deliberate and sweeping intrusion" that compromised private data of 145 million Americans.

The suspects were members of the PLA's 54th Research Institute, according to a nine-count federal indictment unsealed Monday. Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei were charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

"The scale of the theft was staggering," Barr said. "The theft not only caused significant financial damage to Equifax, but invaded the privacy of many millions of Americans, and imposed substantial costs and burdens on them as they had to take measures to protect against identity theft."

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich described the intrusion as the largest instance of state-sponsored theft in U.S. history.

"This is not the end of our investigation," Bowdich said. "To all who seek to disrupt the safety, security and confidence of the global citizenry in this digitally connected world, this is a day of reckoning." 

The Chinese army identified a flaw in Equifax's security system, executed a plan of attack to penetrate the system and devised a scheme to cover their tracks on their way out, according to the indictment.

From about May through July 2017, hackers obtained names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of 145 million Americans, and driver's license numbers for at least 10 million Americans, prosecutors allege.

"In a single breach, the PLA obtained sensitive personally identifiable information for nearly half of all American citizens," prosecutors wrote.

How it happened: Chinese military hackers identified flaw in Equifax's security and exploited it

Hackers also stole credit card numbers and other personal information for 200,000 Americans and personal information for nearly a million citizens of the United Kingdom and Canada, the indictment says.

Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle federal and state investigations into how it handled the data breach.

The settlement includes $425 million to help consumers affected by the breach and a restitution fund with at least $380.5 million allotted to consumer compensation. The fund will also include an additional $125 million if the initial funds run out. 

Equifax breach settlement: Wednesday is last day to file a claim for free credit monitoring or money

The Equifax theft is among several high-profile breaches of American databases, including the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Marriott hotels and Anthem health insurance company. 

"About 80% of economic espionage prosecutions have implicated the Chinese government, and about 60% of all trade secret theft cases in recent years involved some connection to China," Barr said.

The Justice Department and the FBI have been investigating individuals for alleged theft of trade secrets and economic espionage as part of its China Initiative, launched in 2018 in response to government agencies' findings about China's practice of acquiring intellectual property and technology from other countries.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the communist power’s theft of technology and trade secrets is the “greatest long-term threat to our economic vitality."

Wray said the Chinese government will use any means necessary to “steal their way up the economic ladder at our expense'' by penetrating information technology systems, aerospace, agriculture, defense and research programs, and broad swaths of academia.

The FBI has 1,000 open investigations into suspected Chinese economic espionage and technology theft, he said.

Last month, the Justice Department charged a Harvard University professor for allegedly lying about money he received from the Chinese government. Charles Lieber, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, made false statements about work he did for a program run by the Chinese government that seeks to lure American talent to China, according to the Justice Department.

On Monday, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Intelligence Committee, said the threat does not end with the charges in the Equifax case.

"The Chinese Communist Party will leave no stone unturned in its effort to steal and exploit American data," Sasse said. "These indictments are good news, but we've got to do more to protect Americans' data from Chinese Communist Party influence operations."

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, lamented that the Trump administration's trade deal with China, signed last month, did not reference the kind of espionage outlined in the Monday's court papers.

"For years, the Chinese government has targeted Western commercial firms," Warner said. "It is disappointing that despite a lot of rhetoric, President Trump’s recent agreement with China does nothing to address this specific issue.



This is my addition: So what's China going to to do with all of that information? Who knows, but they could use it to blackmail or extort American citizens into resorting to espionage against their own country is one plausible possibility.

With the corona-virus disaster still unfolding I'm sure they have more pressing things on their agenda now instead of stealing private American citizens personal data for their own nefarious purposes!

It's also no surprise that most of the world's hacking activity and malicious spam comes from China! What a great thing to be notorious for, right?

Regards, Ritchie... 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm sure most Chinese firms and ordinary Chinese people in general are upstanding and honourable, however reading this article did remind me of measures I took about a year ago. I was getting ever-increasing volumes of spam to my e-mail inbox, and I got fed-up with sifting through it, so I configured the e-mail server to automatically reject absolutely anything coming from a Chinese domain-name or IP-address. In short, I geo-blocked the entire state of China. I haven't had a single item of unsolicited SPAM since. I've not yet missed any item of mail I was expecting, either.

It might be worth pointing out the obvious, though... which is that if you have Chinese friends or relatives, this would cut them off!

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I have no qualms with the average Chinese citizen. I'm sure they're hard working people trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for their family like everyone else in the world. It's the Chinese government and the decisions it makes that I see is the real problem if it allows (or turns a blind eye to) this type of internet activity.

Cheers, Ritchie... 

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my 2 cents,,,,

 

all hack

 

 

 

iran,korea,vietnam,russia,india pakistan, euopeans others too many to name

 

spain

portugal

also through free  software like word ,office antivirus

sophos ,antivirus sends data to  British intelligence

using Microsoft  

amount of data microsoft collects is like Everest proportional 

 

just big problem all around

even governments hack,NSA

canadian cyber(government espionage bureau)

 

DARK WEB ,big problem

 

sell ids for $1,50 each

 

used to hang there but its overwhelming for novice like me

 

Our government is one of the most intrusive in governments in the world, monitoring all online activities and cell phone use, making use of any smart device purchased to further their need to surveil all American civilians. It would be a mistake to believe that one of the close to twenty two agencies that gather data on all American civilian

 

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Interesting mention of Sophos. The same concern crossed my mind once, when deciding which AV to use, however I don't think you need to worry! I initially thought Sophos would send data back to GCHQ, however I really doubt it for one big reason: There's absolutely no need to waste the time and effort doing it. The UK already has an intelligence deal with the Americans, which means that there's no need to pressure Sophos to put a backdoor in their software: The NSA probably already has one in the Operating System, which makes compromising the AV a redundant effort. Any data collected by one 5-eyes country is available to the others. For the same reason, I have no problem trusting Immunet (an American AV, owned by Cisco), because it's already running on an American OS (Windows). If the NSA wants to spy on us, they won't ask Sophos, Immunet and others to backdoor their products, when the operating system itself with all its telemetry is already a tool of mass surveillance. All they have to do is issue a court order telling Microsoft to turn over the information they already collect! Alternatively, they could just ask Microsoft to put a backdoor in the operating system. One point of contact and collection for everyone is far more efficient than going via every single AV vendor and relying on your target using one of the AVs you managed to compromise.

As a side note, depending on your views about China and Russia you'd still have this theoretical worry with a Chinese or Russian AV, because obviously they're not in the Western spy-club (5/9/14-eyes). They'd therefore have to compromise something like an AV because they wouldn't be able to pressure Microsoft to backdoor the OS or turn over data like that. Of course, depending on your nationality, views and threat-model, you might not be concerned about this - or you might even trust the Chinese and Russians more than the 5/9/14-eye nations of the West.

This is of course all speculation. In any given situation, we don't know for sure who is targeted for surveillance, who is doing the surveillance, and which firms and service-providers are implicated in it. My point is that GCHQ has no need to compromise Sophos (or any other AV) because it would be a far better use of resources for the NSA to compromise Microsoft.

If you can't trust your operating system, worrying about the software running on it is irrelevant and pointless.

This is actually one of the many reasons why I tend to favour GNU/Linux, *BSD /et al/ wherever possible. I admit they're not perfect and not invulnerable, but that's all a discussion for another thread and another day.

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Responding a bit more to your post... I haven't mentioned mobile phone surveillance, but basically if it really worries you, take a look at the Replicant, /e/, and LineageOS ROMs for your phone, and consider ditching the Google Play store and its proprietary apps for the F-Droid store and its free (libre) open-source apps. Or use a non-smart phone. I occasionally have a digital detox with a vintage Nokia. I really don't miss-out on anything.

You might also want to consider whether all those loyalty cards (and the data-profiling they entail) are really worth it (unless you're on the poverty line, they're probably not).

You might also want to educate yourself (if you haven't already) on when (and when NOT) to use a VPN and/or TOR.

You can get some great information by checking out EFF's surveillance self-defense site, privacytools.io, restoreprivacy.com, thatoneprivacysite.net and any other reputable sites dealing with this subject (clue: they won't be sponsored by any of the services they recommend, and they'll be transparent about how they operate).

You may also find it useful to change your e-mail and search providers away from the main big ones.

Be warned that looking into privacy is like falling down a rabbit-hole, and it's really easy to get very, very paranoid and overestimate your threat model. You can easily cut yourself off from the world, make your computer unusable and bogged-down, etc. I prefer a middle ground, therefore I go for an option of passive resistance: I want advertisers, data-trackers and governments to know that I object to what they do, even though it would be impractical for me to attempt to stop them. I can't stop them, but I can make it a little more difficult and expensive for them, and I can reduce what they get hold of. I don't have much to hide and am not doing anything illegal, but privacy is a basic human right, and I reserve that right even when I don't need to make use of it. By upholding that right, I potentially save the life of someone who does need to make use of that right, such as a whistleblower, human-rights lawyer or journalist. To paraphrase Edward Snowden: "The nothing to hide, nothing to fear argument is like saying nobody should have freedom of speech just because you have nothing to say".

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I've got a Data Block USB Charging Adapter distributed by Talos (a company also owned by Cisco). It does resemble a conventional flash drive.

Many charging cables also double as a data transfer cable. This can be helpful when transferring files from your mobile device to a computer, or vice a versa, but this feature can be harmful if you are connecting to a public charging station or unsecured computer leaving your device at risk of viruses and stolen data.

It works by restricting the data transfer ability and only allows the cable to charge your device.

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