(BBC) – The US has charged four Chinese military officers over the huge cyber-attack of credit rating giant Equifax.
More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses.
Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected.
Announcing the indictments Attorney General William Barr called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”.
According to court documents, the four are allegedly members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military.
They spent weeks in the company’s system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data, the documents said.
The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs.
The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown and it is highly unlikely that they would come to the US for a trial.
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up – not today, anyway.”
What happened in 2017?
Equifax said hackers accessed the information between mid-May and the end of July 2017 when the company discovered the breach.
The accused allegedly routed traffic through 34 servers in nearly 20 countries to try and hide their true location.
The credit rating firm holds data on more than 820 million consumers as well as information on 91 million businesses.