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DOJ Announces Charges Against Hackers Associated With Chinese Government

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In a potential blow to U.S.-China trade talks, the Justice Department on Thursday announced the criminal indictment of two computer hackers associated with the Chinese government.

The unsealed indictment charges the two Chinese nationals with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The defendants, identified as Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, allegedly worked for a hacking group operating in China known within the cyber security community as Advanced Persistent Threat 10, or APT 10.

Zhu and Zhang are accused of conducting global campaigns of computer intrusions targeting, among other data, intellectual property and confidential business and technological information at managed service providers.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Zhu and Zhang allegedly committed their crimes in association with a Chinese intelligence service known as the Ministry of State Security.

"This is not the first time the Department of Justice has accused Chinese state actors and associates of stealing commercial information," Rosenstein said. "Since the indictment of five uniformed members of the People's Liberation Army in 2014, our Department has repeatedly cast a spotlight on Chinese state-sponsored criminal activity targeting U.S. companies."

"It is unacceptable that we continue to uncover cybercrime committed by China against other nations," he added. "We want China to cease illegal cyber activities and honor its commitment to the international community, but the evidence suggests that China may not intend to live up to its promises."

The announcement of the indictment comes as U.S. and Chinese officials have been in discussions about a long-term trade deal after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day trade war truce early this month.

The indictment of the Chinese hackers along with the recent arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on suspicion of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran has cast doubt on the potential for a lasting agreement.

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