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Chinese hackers charged for stealing data from Hanford, hundreds of other organizations worldwide

The two defendants stole information from the Hanford Nuclear site, as well as targeting Chinese dissidents, and hundreds of victim companies.
Credit: Jeff T. Green
A sign is seen as you enter the Hanford Nuclear Reservation June 30, 2005 near Richland, Washington. (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

SPOKANE, Wash. — A grand jury in Spokane indicted two Chinese residents with hacking hundreds of companies, and government organizations worldwide, including the Hanford Site, a decommissioned nuclear reservation in Benton County. 

The two defendants, Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, stole less than a gigabyte of data from Hanford, according to the indictment.The information stolen related to "Reconnaissance information about Hanford's network and its personnel, such as lists of authorized user and administrator accounts." The indictment lists the approximate time frame of the theft as March 2015.

The hacking campaign was first detected on Hanford's computers, but it also targeted companies in countries with booming technology industries like the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom among others over a span of ten years, according to a release from the Department of Justice.  

In some instances, the hackers worked on behalf of Chinese government agencies, according the release. 

The defendants are charged with stealing intellectual property, confidential business information, and also attempting to steal information from companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology and treatments, according to the release.

As the grand jury charged, the computer systems of many businesses, individuals and agencies throughout the United States and worldwide have been hacked and compromised with a huge array of sensitive and valuable trade secrets, technologies, data, and personal information being stolen," U.S. Attorney William D. Hyslop for the District Eastern District of Washington.

"The hackers operated from China both for their own gain and with the assistance and for the benefit of the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security," Hyslop said. 

The indictment charges the defendants with stealing trade secrets that would give competitors a "market edge by providing insight into proprietary business plans and savings on research and development costs in creating competing products." 

The defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of unauthorized access of a computer, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Washington and Trial Attorney Schott McCulloch are prosecuting this case, according to the release. 

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