Chinese government-linked hackers are trying to steal coronavirus-related research into vaccines, treatments and tests, the FBI and a US cybersecurity agency warned on Wednesday.
The FBI, in a joint declaration with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said it was investigating “targeting and compromising US organizations conducting COVID-19 research through [People’s Republic of China]-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors. “
Hackers were caught trying to “illegally identify and obtain valuable intellectual property” and public health data related to coronavirus research, the statement said.
“The potential theft of this information compromises the provision of secure, effective and efficient processing options,” the statement said.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, is a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Federal agencies have urged all US organizations researching the virus to strengthen their cybersecurity practices to “prevent the covert review or theft of COVID-19-related material.”
The coronavirus originated in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province and has since become a global pandemic that has hit the United States more severely than any other country, according to data on confirmed cases and deaths from Covid- 19. To date, more than 1.3 million cases and at least 82,389 deaths have been recorded in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
US political leaders and health experts have said that the world may not be relieved from the massive impact of the disease on daily life, which brought the US economy to a standstill, until that an effective vaccine be widely disseminated.
But even if a vaccine is developed at a breakneck pace, it could still be at least a year to 18 months old.
“Biomedical research has long been at the heart of what the Chinese wanted and what they engaged in economic espionage,” John Demers, deputy attorney general for national security, told CNBC on Monday.
“It would be crazy to think that right now, the Chinese are not behind some of the cyber activity that we see targeting American pharmaceutical companies and targeting the country’s research institutes that carry out research on coronaviruses, treatments and vaccines, “said Demers on” The Exchange. “
The current health crisis caused by the coronavirus is the last problem to shake relations between Beijing and Washington. The two largest economies in the world were already engaged in a disruptive trade war, with intellectual property theft proving to be a major sticking point between the two sides.
US officials have long complained that the theft of intellectual property in China has cost the economy billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs, and that it threatens national security. China maintains that it does not steal intellectual property.
The F-35, the crown jewel in the defense giant’s portfolio, had its sensitive design and electronic data compromised in 2009. Chinese hackers are believed to be at the origin of the cyber intrusion.
China later announced that it is developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the Shenyang J-31 stealth jet, which strikingly resembles the F-35.
The Trump administration is also working to isolate Chinese tech firm Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, from the development of a larger presence in U.S. partner countries.
China’s actions were the subject of bipartisan criticism: earlier this year, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, D-calif., Took a firm stand against collaboration with Huawei and warned other countries of do not deal with the business.
After years of negotiations, the Trump administration and the Chinese government signed the first phase of a trade deal in January. But President Donald Trump has accused China in recent weeks of the virus and sharply criticized its management of the epidemic.
“He could have been arrested where he came from,” said Trump in March.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning, “We have just concluded a great trade deal, the ink was barely dry and the world has been hit by the plague from China.”
“100 trade deals wouldn’t make a difference – and all those innocent lives lost!” Trump wrote.