Countries around the world are investing big in crash programs to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. © Reuters

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

As scientists around the world work to discover a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, U.S. authorities are warning that Chinese hackers may be attempting to steal research that could lead to the vaccine. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI released a joint statement alleging Beijing’s sponsorship of these cyberattacks aimed at stealing vaccine research. The agencies also stated that they observed the hackers attempting to identify and steal confidential intellectual property along with public health data and records tied to COVID-19 vaccine research. Authorities believe this could compromise efforts to find a cure.

Both U.S. and U.K. intelligence services issued a  joint cyber warning on May 5 regarding the increased efforts by foreign hackers to steal medical records and information, noting they use a technique called “password spraying” with which hackers attempt to gain access by trying commonly used passwords.

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill Evanina says that China has been attempting to steal valuable medical technology for years, adding that he expects China will do “everything in their power” to obtain valuable medical research conducted in the U.S. China has repeatedly denied such accusations in the past, arguing their sharing of coronavirus gene sequencing research exemplifies their cooperation with world researchers.

MEDIA CONTRIBUTION

Coronavirus: US to accuse China of trying to hack vaccine research amid surge in cybertheft – The Independent – 5/11/20
The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic. The warning from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security comes as Israeli officials accuse Iran of mounting an effort in late April to cripple water supplies as Israelis were confined to their houses, though the government has offered no evidence to back its claim.

FBI, DHS to accuse China of trying to hack coronavirus researchers: reports – The Hill – 5/11/2020
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that Beijing opposes all forms of cyberattack, the Journal noted.  “China is leading in the research of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment. It is immoral for anyone to engage in rumor-mongering without presenting any evidence,” he said in a briefing, according to the newspaper. 

U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, as Virus Redirects Cyberattacks – New York Times – 5/10/2020
The decision to issue a specific accusation against China’s state-run hacking teams, current and former officials said, is part of a broader deterrent strategy that also involves United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. […] The forthcoming warning is also the latest iteration of a series of efforts by the Trump administration to blame China for being the source of the pandemic and exploiting its aftermath.

Report: FBI to Warn Chinese Hackers to Steal Coronavirus Research – Breitbart – 5/12/2020
The NYT did its best to run a little cover for China in its article, first by asserting that everybody is trying to steal coronavirus data and tossing in a non-sequitur about Israel’s allegations about an Iranian hacker attack last month […] Later in its report, the NYT framed the cybersecurity warning as part of a propaganda war between the Trump administration and the Chinese, made a point of quoting unnamed critics who think the effort to root out Chinese spies from U.S. tech and academia is a new “Red Scare,” and expounded on its “everybody is hacking like crazy these days” narrative […]

INFLUENCER CONTRIBUTION

alfred on Twitter, 5/13/20: The Trump administration is calling out China over attempts to hack COVID-19 researchers for vaccine info. “China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19”

Josh Rogin on Twitter, 5/13/20: China is hacking our research institutions to steal #coronavirus data. But Treasury won’t sanction Chinese firms for cyber crimes. That must change

Shannon Vavra on Twitter, 5/13/20: DOJ’s John Demers, 3 weeks ago: “Whatever country’s or company’s research lab is 1st to produce” coronavirus vaccine/treatment “that is going to have a significant geopolitical success story.” Today, FBI/DHS blaming China for targeting COVID-19 research.

Nate Madden on Twitter, 5/13/20: The country that lied to the world about the virus’ initial outbreak is now stalling efforts to research the origin. So what are they trying to cover up?

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