In some cases, the suspects tried to extort money from companies, according to the indictment. In 2017, Mr. Li threatened to publish the source code of a Massachusetts software company if it did not give him $15,000 in cryptocurrency.
Like the Russian group, the Chinese hackers operated with the assistance of their country’s intelligence agencies. Their interests were broad, covering manufacturing firms, defense contractors, government agencies, game developers and medical device makers; they recently grew to include information about coronavirus vaccine development and other virus-related data.
The suspects also tried to steal other information on Chinese activists for the Ministry of State Security, Beijing’s civilian spy agency, said John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security. The suspects handed over account information and passwords belonging to a Hong Kong community organizer, a former Tiananmen Square protester and a pastor of a Christian church in China.
“You can see by the variety of the hacks that they did how they were being directed by the government,” Mr. Demers said at a news conference at the Justice Department. “Extorting someone for cryptocurrency is not something that the government is usually interested in, nor are criminal hackers usually interested in human rights activists and clergymen.”
The hackers broke into computer networks by researching personal identifying information about employees and customers, which helped them gain unauthorized access, according to law enforcement officials. Once inside, they stole information from pharmaceutical companies about drugs under development and source code from software companies, the indictment said.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 21, 2020
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Why do masks work?
- The coronavirus clings to wetness and enters and exits the body through any wet tissue (your mouth, your eyes, the inside of your nose). That’s why people are wearing masks and eyeshields: they’re like an umbrella for your body: They keep your droplets in and other people’s droplets out. But masks only work if you are wearing them properly. The mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin, and should stretch almost to your ears. Be sure there are no gaps — that sort of defeats the purpose, no?
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
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Although the Chinese intelligence service in some cases provided them with hacking tools, much of their work was done using more common methods to breach publicly known software vulnerabilities.
The hackers also worked to cover their tracks, sometimes in ways that could damage the data they were stealing, like by changing the file names of information they downloaded, according to court papers. To further avoid detection, the two hackers worked inside computers’ “recycle bins,” where files are hidden by default and harder for system administrators to see.