Representative image. Photograph:( Reuters )
They have also been alleged of compromising government data in Vietnam and India
A Chinese hacker group called APT41 has been charged by the US Justice Department after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Microsoft caught two of the hackers in a combined effort.
APT41 is a group of seven hackers, out of which five of them are Chinese nationals and are expert hackers. Majority of the group members have been employees of Chengdu 404 Network Technology — a company that provides legal hacking services to the company to help detect vulnerabilities in clients' computer networks. The other company involved in the case is SEA Gamer Mall, a Malaysia-based firm that sells video game currency, power-ups and other in-game items.
They trapped various groups — from gaming companies to non-profit organisations — by several sophisticated and basic phishing methods. While some companies got duped through phishing emails, rest gave permission to the group to modify their codes, which provided them free and unlimited access to clients' computers and internal data.
The group has been alleged of hacking hundreds of computers of various companies around the world. The hackers accessed identities, personal information and used the hacked information to ask for ransom and commit cryptocurrency/bitcoin frauds. They also hacked into systems of gaming companies through which they used the data to sell game items back to the customers and dupe them of money.
They have also been alleged of compromising government data in Vietnam and India.
Whether or not the group was working for the Chinese government is not yet clear. The court has alleged that the hackers collected information regarding pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong and a Buddhist monk from Tibet. One of the hackers, Jiang Lizhi, has a history of working with China's Ministry of State Security.
However, none of these allegations have successfully proved a connection between the hacker group and the Chinese government. More investigation is being carried out for this.
Out of seven, two members have been caught. However, these two were businessmen in Malaysia, and the hackers are still at large. The two businessmen were caught in a sweeping operation by the FBI and private companies including Microsoft to block the hackers from using their online accounts.
The US is currently seeking permission to extradite the hacker groups, which is seemingly difficult as none of the members have lived in the US, but have committed frauds in the country.