WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury has charged four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with hacking Equifax and stealing personal data and trade secrets in one of the largest hacks on record.
Attorney General William Barr said at a news conference 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.”
Barr said the hack caused Equifax damage and many others who had to protect themselves from identity theft.
“This data has economic value and these thefts can feed China’s development of artificial tools,” Barr said.
Equifax first disclosed the hack, the largest in US history, in September 2017, three months after the company discovered the breach. The hack exposed sensitive information, including names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and addresses.
Hackers leveraged a security flaw in a tool designed to build web applications to steal customer data. Equifax admitted it was aware of the security flaw a full two months before the company says hackers first accessed its data.
The data breach prompted the resignation of CEO Richard Smith and investigations by federal regulators, multiple states attorneys general and the company faces a number of civil lawsuits.