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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacks targeting more than 100 companies and institutions in the United States and abroad, including social media and video game companies as well as universities and telecommunications providers, officials said Wednesday.

The five defendants remain fugitives, but prosecutors say two Malaysian businessmen charged with conspiring with the alleged hackers to profit off the attacks on the billion-dollar video game industry were arrested in Malaysia this week and now face extradition proceedings.

Read More: US ambassador to China to step down amid rising tensions with Beijing

The indictments are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to call out cybercrimes by China. In July, prosecutors accused hackers of working with the Chinese government to target companies developing vaccines for the coronavirus and of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of intellectual property and trade secrets from companies across the world.

Though those allegations were tailored to the pandemic, the charges announced Wednesday — and the range of victims identified — were significantly broader and involved attacks done both for monetary gain but also more conventional espionage purposes.

In unsealing three related indictments, officials laid out a wide-ranging hacking scheme targeting a variety of business sectors and academia and carried out by a China-based group known as APT41. That group has been tracked by the cybersecurity firm Mandiant Threat Intelligence, which described the hackers as prolific and successful at blending criminal and espionage operations.

The hackers relied on a series of tactics, including attacks in which they managed to compromise the networks of software providers, modify the source code and conduct further attacks on the companies’ customers.

The Justice Department did not directly link the hackers to the Chinese government. But officials said the hackers were probably serving as proxies for Beijing because some of the targets, including pro-democracy activists and students at a Taiwan university, were in line with government interests and didn’t appear to be about scoring a profit.

“A hacker for profit is not going to hack a pro-democracy group,” said acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin of the District of Columbia, where the cases were filed. Those targets, including some that bear the “hallmark” of conventional espionage, point to the conclusion that the hackers had at least an indirect connection with the government, Sherwin said.

In addition, one of the five defendants told a colleague that he was very close to the Chinese Ministry of State Security and would be protected “unless something very big happens,” and also agreed not to go after domestic targets in China, said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

But some of the conduct was clearly profit driven, officials said. Two of the Chinese defendants, for instance, were charged with breaking into video game companies and obtaining digital currency that was then sold for profit on the black market, officials said.

Rosen, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, criticized the Chinese government for what he said was a failure to disrupt hacking crimes and to hold hackers accountable.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R. Sherwin speaks to the media about charges and arrests related to a computer intrusion campaign tied to the Chinese government by a group called APT 41 at the Department of Justice on September 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis-Pool/Getty Images)

“Ideally, I would be thanking Chinese law enforcement authorities for their cooperation in the matter and the five Chinese hackers would now be in custody awaiting trial,” Rosen said. “Unfortunately, the record of recent years tells us that the Chinese Communist Party has a demonstrated history of choosing a different path, that of making China safe for their own cyber criminals, so long as they help with its goals of stealing intellectual property and stifling freedom.”

There was no immediate response Wednesday to an email seeking comment from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Read More: 2020 election targeted by Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers, Microsoft says

The Justice Department also announced that it had seized hundreds of accounts, servers and domain names used by the defendants and that it had worked with Microsoft and other private sector companies to deny the hackers continued access to tools, accounts and hacking infrastructure.

Also Wednesday, the department announced charges against two Iranian nationals accused of stealing hundreds of terabytes of data in a hacking campaign targeting institutions — and perceived enemies of Iran — in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

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Epic Games Joins The Coalition for App Fairness in Its Fight Against Apple

The entire Epic Games vs. Apple fiasco was probably one of the most significant events in the world of gaming and even beyond. Epic is not one to back down from its quest for justice and has recently joined the forum of app developers fighting against the injustice caused by Apple’s alleged monopoly. This forum is called the “Coalition for app fairness“. The about page of the forum reads:

“In the past, individual companies have spoken out against the App Store policies through efforts like Spotify’s Time to Play Fair and Epic Games’ #FreeFortnite campaign. Today, these companies and many others are joining forces to speak as one.”

Further reading: Fortnite and Rocket League Crossover Event Details

The Coalition for App Fairness describes itself as an “independent nonprofit organization founded by industry-leading companies to advocate for freedom of choice and fair competition across the app ecosystem”. The founding members of this coalition include the likes of Spotify, Epic Games, News Media Europe, BLIX, among many others.

The Epic Games Newsroom Twitter handle announced this earlier today.

Developer freedoms are under attack. We are joining @AppFairness to defend and reclaim the fundamental rights of all creators. Learn more about how you can challenge the anti-competitive behaviors that exist on today’s app stores.

— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) September 24, 2020

Epic Games joins the Coalition for App Fairness, but what does the coalition stand for?

The coalition aims at serving as a platform for the many app developers and firms that have been facing injustice in the market resulting from Apple’s alleged monopolizing strategies. It provides a united front to these companies and devs in their claim for justice.

David Barnard, who is an independent developer and a member of the Coalition, says, “Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on smartphones, but it’s hard to say that they don’t have a monopoly over iOS users … If you want to exist on mobile, you have to go through Apple as a gatekeeper.”

One of the issues the Coalition raises against Apple

This tax issue was the trigger that brought Epic Games into the fight. According to the coalition, Apple makes $15 Billion in annual revenue simply from its app tax. Furthermore, the Coalition raises the allegation of not providing any form of customer freedom whatsoever:

“If consumers want to use a modern mobile device, Apple levies a tax that no one can avoid. No competition, no options, no recourse. The Apple  App Store policies are prisons that consumers are required to pay for and that developers cannot escape.”

The vision that drives the Coalition is ensuring that every app developer receives fair treatment in the market. In addition to this, it also aims at ensuring that every consumer has complete control over their own device. The entire community has been standing with Epic Games since the issue began. May the victim receive justice.

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