PITTSBURGH/NEW YORK/WASHINGTON • US prosecutors have charged three Chinese nationals affiliated with a cyber security company in China with hacking into Siemens, Trimble and Moody's Analytics to steal business secrets.
An indictment unsealed on Monday in federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, charged the three with launching "coordinated and unauthorised" cyber attacks between 2011 and 2017.
The defendants were identified as Wu Yingzhuo, Dong Hao and Xia Lei. The indictment said they were owners, employees and associates of Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company, a firm located in Guangzhou, China, that offers cyber security services.
Two US government officials told Reuters that Guangzhou Bo Yu, also known as Boyusec, is affiliated with the People's Liberation Army Unit 61398, and that most if not all its hacking operations are state-sponsored and directed.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing yesterday he was unclear on the details of the case but added that China opposes hacking and wants to work with other countries to ensure global security.
US prosecutors in Pittsburgh in May 2014 indicted five officers from the secretive unit 61398 with hacking into US nuclear, metal and solar firms to steal trade secrets. The indictments prompted warnings from Beijing that it would retaliate if Washington followed through with the charges.
The acting US attorney for Western Pennsylvania, Mr Soo C. Song, said arrest warrants had been issued for the three men, but the case was not being prosecuted as state-sponsored hacking. But the Justice Department's National Security Division participated in the case, according to the indictment.
The hackers monitored e-mail correspondence of an unidentified Moody's economist; stole data from transportation, technology and energy units at Siemens; and targeted Trimble as it developed a new and more precise global navigation satellite system, the indictment said.
Siemens is a German technology company with interests in electrification, automation and digitalisation. US-based Trimble provides technology for various industries.
Moody's Analytics provides products and services for financial analysis and risk management.
Trimble's advances in geolocation and Siemens' work in guidance and navigation are of interest to the Chinese, according to one of the officials, who declined to be named.