Ant Financial, the fintech arm of the Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group has hit back at the US-based publication Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about an article in which the former was accused of “stealing” data.
The WSJ articles mentioned that trade secrets of credit-reporting firm Equifax were “stolen” by Chinese spies-- one of Equifax former employees-- who now works with Ant Financial, costing the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
On September 12, in a report headlined “Before It Was Hacked, Equifax Had a Different Fear: Chinese Spying,” WSJ detailed Equifax’s 2015 suspicions of “efforts by a former employee to obtain company information, and launched an internal investigation into his activities.”
In a statement signed by Leiming Chen, the company’s general counsel on Thursday, Ant Financial termed the contents of the WSJ report as “false information…based on unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous sources.”
Although investigative agencies CIA and the FBI were involved in the probe at Equifax’s behest, the probe hit a dead end after the company limited its cooperation in the process fearing “legal exposure”, the article said.
The employee in question is Daniel Zou, an ethnic Chinese who worked with the firm’s Toronto centre.
Zou quit the company and joined Ant Financial only a few months before Equifax first voiced its suspicions about data theft.
The article says that the company’s internal security mechanism had flagged certain printouts and emails by Zou which could have been used to syphon sensitive codes and source employer backgrounds.
Both Zou and Ant Financial have been quoted in the article as having denied any involvement in the matter.
Citing anomalies in the WSJ article, the statement clarified that it was never asked by the Chinese government to develop the country’s credit scoring system. The article claims that in 2005, Ant Financial was one of the companies that were asked to develop a credit scoring service by China’s central bank. Codes stolen from Equifax could help Ant Financial understand the values assigned for the credit score against each parameter, the article hinted.
The statement said, “Neither Equifax nor any government investigators ever contacted Ant Financial about the allegations reported by the Wall Street Journal,” and accused the publication of trying to conduct a prosecution by media.