On the first day of May, a grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania indicted five members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for 31 criminal counts, including: conspiring to commit computer fraud; accessing a computer without authorization for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain; damaging computers through the transmission of code and commands; aggravated identity theft; economic espionage; and theft of trade secrets.
The subjects, including Sun Kailiang, were officers of the PRC’s Third Department of the General Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army (3PLA), Second Bureau, Third Office, Military Unit Cover Designator (MUCD) 61398, at some point during the investigation. The activities executed by each of these individuals allegedly involved in the conspiracy varied according to his specialties. Each provided his individual expertise to an alleged conspiracy to penetrate the computer networks of six American companies while those companies were engaged in negotiations or joint ventures or were pursuing legal action with, or against, state-owned enterprises in China. They then used their illegal access to allegedly steal proprietary information including, for instance, e-mail exchanges among company employees and trade secrets related to technical specifications for nuclear plant designs. Sun, who held the rank of captain during the early stages of the investigation, was observed both sending malicious e-mails and controlling victim computers.