China Working To Steal U.S. Research On Virus Vaccine, Report Says

On Sunday evening, The New York Times reported that the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are readying a warning that hackers working for Communist China are assiduously working to steal American research related to creating a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus COVID-19.

The Times reported that a draft of the warning stated that China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.” The warning cites “nontraditional actors,” which the Times states is a “euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.”

“The Trump administration has repeatedly publicly blamed China of stealing billions of dollars of intellectual property from U.S. businesses annually, including in the sensitive field of biomedical research. Those accusations have typically come years after the alleged hacks or espionage cases and been supported by indictments or technical information to support its claims,” The Wall Street Journal noted.

The United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency currently have the power to penetrate other nations’ networks, if necessary, and strike counterattacks if said nations were cyberattacking the U.S., thanks to legal authorities President Trump issued.

The Journal added, “The stepped-up cyber defense efforts reflect national-security concerns in the race to produce a vaccine and control the coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic poses a prolonged threat to many nations’ health systems and could bring prolonged economic damage. That has made getting access to a vaccine—and to other pharmaceutical and technological tools to fight the virus—a priority for governments.”

Christopher Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the Times, “China’s long history of bad behavior in cyberspace is well documented, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are going after the critical organizations involved in the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The United States and Britain issued a joint warning last week stating:

CISA and NCSC continue to see indications that advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are exploiting the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as part of their cyber operations. This joint alert highlights ongoing activity by APT groups against organizations involved in both national and international COVID-19 responses. It describes some of the methods these actors are using to target organizations and provides mitigation advice.

CISA and NCSC are currently investigating a number of incidents in which threat actors are targeting pharmaceutical companies, medical research organizations, and universities. APT groups frequently target such organizations in order to steal sensitive research data and intellectual property for commercial and state benefit. Organizations involved in COVID-19-related research are attractive targets for APT actors looking to obtain information for their domestic research efforts into COVID-19-related medicine.

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