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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has denied any involvement in the Equifax hack that saw the personal data of nearly half of America’s population exposed. 

Yesterday the United States’ Department of Justice issued a nine-count indictment against four Chinese military personnel in connection with the cyber-attack, which took place from May to July 2017.

The US alleges that Wu Zhiyong (吴志勇), Wang Qian (王乾), Xu Ke (许可), and Liu Lei (刘磊), who are all members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), conspired to access Equifax’s computer systems. The defendants are accused of stealing trade secrets and the personal data of 145 million American citizens from the credit reporting agency. 

In a statement issued today from Beijing, PRC foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang strongly denied that the Chinese military or government were responsible for this or any other cyber-attack. 

During a briefing, which was held over social media app WeChat to minimize the risks associated with the current outbreak of coronavirus in the PRC, Shuang wrote: “We firmly oppose and combat cyberattacks of any kind. China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity.”

Shuang further denied that the theft of data from Equifax had been a state-sponsored initiative conducted with the backing of the PRC.

“The Chinese government, military and relevant personnel never engage in cyber-theft of trade secrets,” wrote Shuang. 

According to Shuang, the same cannot be said of the United States, whom he accused of carrying out cyber-espionage activities on a grand scale. 

In the international diplomacy equivalent of the time-honored playground retort, “whoever smelt it, dealt it,” Shuang portrayed America rather than China as the cyber-aggressor.

Shuang wrote: “It has long been an open secret that relevant departments in the US, in violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, have been engaging in large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cyber stealing, spying and surveillance activities on foreign governments, enterprises and individuals.”

Shuang went on to cite the cases of WikiLeaks and whistleblower Edward Snowden as examples of the “hypocrisy and double standards” being exercised by America when it came to cybersecurity. 

He added: “According to plenty of information that has been made public, US agencies have been engaging in cyber intrusion, surveillance and monitoring activities on foreign governments, institutions, enterprises, universities and individuals, including on its allies.”

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