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China’s cyberattacks should make it a trade pariah

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Four members of China’s People’s Liberation Army now stand charged in the 2017 Equifax hack, one of the largest cybercrimes ever — and they were plainly working Beijing’s will, since they’re all members of a PLA unit dedicated to hacking.

In other words: China is waging cyberwar on the West even as it insists on being treated like a normal country.

The hack of one of the biggest US consumer-credit reporting agencies grabbed personal info on half the country: birthdates and Social Security numbers of 145 million and driver’s license info of 10 million, plus 200,000 stolen credit-card numbers.

And the danger goes far beyond the monetary, Attorney General William Barr noted in announcing the charges: “These thefts can feed China’s development of artificial intelligence tools, as well as the creation of intelligence targeting packages” — meaning industrial as well as regular-old espionage.

This follows the feds’ 2014 indictment of PLA hackers for breaching the computer systems of a number of American manufacturers, among other crimes.

Since then, notes Barr, “We have witnessed China’s voracious appetite for the personal data of Americans, including the theft of personnel records from the Office of Personnel Management, the intrusion into Marriott Hotels and Anthem health-insurance companies and now the wholesale theft of credit and other information from Equifax.”

It’s unlikely the hackers will ever face trial — and even less likely Beijing will stop trying to steal American data and know-how.

The Trump administration’s efforts to block the Chinese firm Huawei from building 5G networks in the West is clearly the bare minimum needed now. As lucrative as China’s market may be, the rest of the world needs to start asking how it can trade with a pack of unapologetic thieves.

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