Feb. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors charged four members of the Chinese military Monday in connection with a major breach of credit-reporting company Equifax in 2017, which exposed personal data affecting nearly 150 million people.
The 24-page indictment charges the four members of Beijing's People's Liberation Army with computer fraud and abuse, economic espionage and wire fraud. They were named as Wang Qian, Wu Zhiyong, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei. Prosecutors said they broke into Equifax computer systems and stole sensitive personal information of "nearly half of all American citizens" and intellectual property belonging to the company.
Prosecutors said the hackers found a vulnerability in Equifax servers that gave them login credentials and for two months mined data that included credit card numbers, drivers licenses and social security numbers. It was the largest data breach in U.S. history.
Monday's indictment followed a two-year Justice Department investigation.
Equifax agreed last year to pay up to $700 million to settle charges with U.S. regulators and 50 states and territories that said the company failed to secure user data.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the accused made a "deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people."
"We do not normally bring criminal charges against the members of another country's military or intelligence services outside the United States," he said. "There are exceptions to this rule.
"The deliberate, indiscriminate theft of vast amounts of sensitive personal data of civilians, as occurred here, cannot be countenanced."
FBI Director Christopher Wray last week warned that Chinese cybercrime poses the "greatest long-term threat" to U.S. "vitality." He said Beijing is committed to "stealing [its] way up the economic ladder at our expense," and noted the FBI has about 1,000 open investigations into suspected Chinese espionage and theft cases.