China trying to steal U.S. COVID-19 research, Homeland Security, FBI warn

by WorldTribune Staff, May 14, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI are warning U.S. healthcare, pharmaceutical and research sectors working on the nation’s COVID-19 response to be aware they are the “prime targets” of “malicious actors” in China looking to steal their research.

“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” the FBI and DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said in a Public Service Announcement issued on May 13.

“The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options,” the FBI and CISA said.

The announcement warned organizations researching COVID-19 of likely targeting and network compromise by communist China, saying the researchers should “take the necessary steps to protect their systems.”

“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,” the announcement said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a May 14 statement, saying:

“The United States condemns attempts by cyber actors and non-traditional collectors affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to steal U.S. intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research, as announced in a May 13, 2020 warning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“The United States calls on the PRC to cease this malicious activity. As the May 13 warning notes, ‘The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.’ The PRC’s behavior in cyberspace is an extension of its counterproductive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While the United States and our allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives, the PRC continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”

The FBI requests organizations who suspect suspicious activity contact their local FBI field office.

CISA is asking for all organizations supporting the COVID-19 response to partner with the agency “in order to help protect these critical response efforts.”

CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Agency released a similar alert earlier this month warning of malicious actors targeting COVID-19 response organizations using a tactic of password spraying.

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