How Chinese hackers looted computer recycling bins to steal secrets and coronavirus research


Before an abundance of encrypted email applications, “junk” email folders were often used to communicate without leaving a trace.The tactic, common among al Qaeda terrorists – and teenagers – was to create an email account that two people could access, compose and read deleted messages. The technique brought about the downfall of former CIA General Manager Petraeus, who resigned after being caught by the FBI talking to his lover through draft emails.

The tactic resurfaced this week when the US government said it caught two Chinese hackers looting the recycling bins of employees of “hundreds” of companies, stealing trade and trade secrets worth “hundreds of millions” during a ten-year frenzy.

The humble icon, which we largely ignore on desktops, was used both to hide malware that could steal computer files and to suck up whatever was deleted. The folder where the Trash files are stored is hidden by default on Windows machines, “and therefore system administrators may be less likely to discover files saved there,” Washington said.

The Justice Department claimed that hackers were focused on stealing intellectual property for profit when they began their frenzy in September 2009.

What we know about suspected pirates

Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi were friends who met during their computer class in Chengdu, China.

Their alleged loot ranged from radio and antenna technology from a California-based tech and defense company, to supply chain intelligence from a manufacturing company that revealed a global shortage of a key component.


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