Chinese National Indicted in Anthem Data Breach

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(photo courtesy of Anthem) (photo courtesy of Anthem)
INDIANAPOLIS -

A federal grand jury has indicted a Chinese national on charges related to the 2015 data breach of Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc. (NYSE: ANTM). The U.S. Department of Justice says Fujie Wang and other members of a hacking group operating in China used "extremely sophisticated" techniques to hack into the computer networks of Anthem and three other large, though unnamed, businesses in the United States. 

Wang, along with another person being identified as John Doe, are each being charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in relation to computers and identity theft, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and two substantive counts of intentional damage to a protected computer.

The indictment says the defendants hacked into the computer networks in February 2014 and installed malware and tools which were used to identify data of interest, including personally identifiable information and confidential business information. The data stolen from Anthem affected more than 78 million people and included names, health identification numbers, Social Security numbers, addresses, and employment information, among others.

"The allegations in the indictment unsealed today outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history," Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a news release. "These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors, and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII. The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting PII, and will aggressively prosecute perpetrators of hacking schemes like this, wherever they occur."

The DOJ says the defendants allegedly used techniques including the sending of specially-tailored "spearfishing" emails with embedded hyperlinks. Once a user clicked on one of those links, a file was downloaded that could deploy the malware. The indictment says the defendants would wait for months before taking further action.

"Anthem's cooperation and openness in working with the FBI on the investigation of this sophisticated cyber-attack was imperative in allowing for the identification of these individuals," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall. "It should also be noted that the speed with which Anthem initially notified the FBI of the intrusion on their networks was also a key factor in being able to determine who was responsible for the breach and should serve as an example to other organizations that might find themselves in a similar situation."

Anthem would later reach settlement agreements in 2017 and 2018 over the breach, to the tune of more than $130 million. 

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