World

Chinese man accused of cyber theft links in US

SAN FRANCISCO: US authorities on Thursday accused a Chinese man visiting the US of providing malware that has been linked to the theft of security clearance records of millions of American government employees.

Yu Pingan from Shanghai was arrested on Monday in Los Angeles after a federal criminal complaint accused him of conspiring with others wielding malicious software known as Sakula, a Justice Department spokesman said.

The complaint said the group attacked unnamed US companies using Sakula, which is the rare program involved in the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hacks detected in 2014 and 2015.

The arrest could provide information on the OPM hacks, which US officials have blamed on the Chinese government.

In a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) affidavit linked to the complaint, an FBI agent said he believed Yu provided the two men with versions of Sakula he knew would be used to carry out attacks on the companies.

Yu's court-appointed attorney, Mr Michael Berg, said Yu was a teacher with no links to China's government and was in Los Angeles for a conference.

The court filings said Sakula had rarely been seen before the attacks on US companies.

The victims are not named, but some companies appeared to be in the aerospace and energy industries.

Mr Adam Meyers, vice-president at US security firm CrowdStrike, said Sakula could be used by multiple groups, but all the known targets would be of interest to China.

Yu remains in jail pending a court hearing on his detention next week. - REUTERS

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