The hacking affected over 100 companies, organizations, and individuals in several countries around the world including India and the United States.
The US Justice Department has pressed charges against five Chinese nationals and two Malaysians for allegedly running global hacking operations for at least six years to steal identities, video game technology, plant ransomware and spy on Hong Kong activists. The accused also compromised computer networks of the Indian government, the DoJ said in a statement.
US DoJ said that the accused hacked computers of over 100 companies in the United States and abroad, including software development companies, computer hardware manufacturers, telecommunications providers, social media companies, video game companies, non-profit organizations, universities, think tanks, foreign governments and pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong.
"Three accused compromised foreign government computer networks in India and Vietnam. They also targeted but did not compromise government computer networks in the United Kingdom," it said.
While the five Chinese nationals could not be traced, two Malaysians were arrested in Malaysia and the United States is seeking their extradition.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A Rosen said that the Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the "illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens."
“Regrettably, the Chinese communist party has chosen a different path of making China safe for cybercriminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China," Rosen said.
Three of the Chinese suspects operated out of Chengdu 404, a China-based company that purported to offer network security services for other businesses.
The defendants associated with Chengdu 404 employed sophisticated hacking techniques to gain and maintain access to victim computer networks, the DoJ said.
"The hacking affected over 100 companies, organizations, and individuals in the United States and around the world, including in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam," it said.
"Some of these criminal actors believed their association with the PRC provided them free license to hack and steal across the globe," federal prosecutor Michael Sherwin said in a statement.
The charges did not indicate any direct political motivations behind the hackers' activities. The filings also do not indicate how the information was used.The seven accused face a range of charges including computer and wire fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and racketeering.