China Cyberattacks on COVID-19 Research Facilities

China CyberAttack

China Cyberattacks Increasing on U.S. COVID-19 Research Facilities

May 13, 2020

The FBI, with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), has formally accused China of funding and operating hacking cells dedicated to stealing COVID-19 vaccine research from the U.S. and its allies in their attempts to prevent ” the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options” for the COVID-19.

U.S. Agencies released an unclassified public service announcement on CISA’s website on Wednesday. Over the past weekend, the warning stated that China is attempting direct attacks at organizations working on vaccine research and responses to COVID-19.

“The FBI is continuing to investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by PRC-affiliated cyber actors. These actors are attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (I.P.) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research. The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options in response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

The U.S. is not alone, and China is not the only country attempting to use cyberattacks to spy and gather intelligence on other countries’ COVID-19 treatment efforts. Israel has accused Iran of trying to cripple its water supply amid shelter-in-place orders. Earlier this month. The U.S. and its partner, the U.K. issued a joint warning about the targeting of health care organizations and pharmaceutical and medical research companies. 

The warning didn’t name specific countries, but it insinuated that hacking threats are directed by known bad actors, or “advanced persistent threat groups” as the warning words it, like China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Recently the U.S. has ramped up its campaign of accusing China of spreading misinformation about the source of the virus and downplaying the severity and death toll of its ongoing outbreak to better position itself in the aftermath. Other reports have also claimed that it has applied considerable amounts of pressure on WHO and other world governments to “COVER-UP” the details surround the COVID-19 outbreak.

The U.S. warning states that vaccine research organizations should be well aware that any press attention on its efforts may lead to increased security risks, as it could tip off Chinese hackers and lead to potential cyber penetrations or attacks.

One official stated that these attempts by the Chinese government to steal intellectual property are not new. Cybersecurity experts and U.S. officials said last year that Chinese hackers targeted more than two dozen universities to steal information about all kinds of emerging and proprietary technology developed for military use.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed this week that China opposed cyberattacks of all forms, stating: “It is immoral for anyone to engage in rumor-mongering without presenting any evidence.