The U.S. accuses hackers linked to China of stealing coronavirus research
Hackers with a Chinese connection get into U.S. organizations that do research on COVID-19. U.S. officials said Wednesday, warning both scientists and public health officials to beware of computer thefts.
In a joint statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security said the FBI is investigating digital hacking by U.S. cyber-linked “cyber actors” in U.S. organizations to monitor attempts to identify and illegally acquire valuable intellectual property. (IP) and public health data on vaccinations, treatments, and testing from networks and staff involved in COVID-19 research. ”
The statement did not detail the identities of the targets or hackers. The Chinese embassy in Washington called the allegations a “lie”.
“The FBI issued a warning based on a presumption of guilt and without evidence,” the embassy said in a written statement, adding that the U.S. accusation underscores ongoing international cooperation against the pandemic.
Research and data on the coronavirus have become a top intelligence priority for hackers of all stripes, and Western intelligence organizations have repeatedly signaled alerts about targeting public health and pharmaceutical organizations.
In a separate statement earlier Wednesday, the head of New Zealand’s signal intelligence agency said he condemned attempts to target infrastructures related to COVID responses.
“We call on all computer actors to refrain from activities that could jeopardize national or international responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Hampton, Director General of the New Zealand Government Communications Security Office.
Last week, Reuters reported that the cyber-linked cyber was targeting drugmakers at Gilead Sciences Inc., whose antiviral drug redeliver is the only treatment that has so far been shown to help COVID-19 patients.
Reuters reported in March and April that advanced hackers were trying to break into the World Health Organization as the pandemic spread to the pandemic.