How Chinese hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine research

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Jul 23, 2020, 07:41 AM IST


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But America believes some of these assignments came from the Chinese ministry of state security. China’s very own spy agency.

American authorities on Tuesday appeared before the media to reveal an espionage campaign that knows no borders.

The press had its eyes on Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, two former engineering students who are now wanted by the FBI. It is believed that these hackers were sponsored by China to steal coronavirus vaccine research, not just from China but from the world’s biggest biotech firms. 

Hackers allegedly targeted technology companies and countries with high technology industries including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The case against the Chinese hackers exposed a spying effort that dates back 10 years. The hackers reportedly had a range of targets which included companies in high tech manufacturing, gaming software development and pharmaceutical companies.

Dissidents, clergy and human rights activists in the United States, China and Hong Kong were also reportedly targeted. Hackers also took some of the projects for money but America believes some of these assignments came from the Chinese ministry of state security - China’s very own spy agency.

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said: "First, and one we have seen for some time, China is using cyber intrusions as part of its rob, replicate and replace strategy for technological development. Second, and one that is perhaps less appreciated by the public and international partners, China is providing a haven for criminal hackers who, as in this case, are hacking in part for their gain, but willing to help the state and on call to do so."

The current whereabouts of these hackers is unknown but the United States claims the Chinese state is protecting them.

According to a report, Chinese intelligence services in some cases provided hacking tools to them with most work being done using common methods by breaching existing vulnerabilities within digital networks and now the same duo was targeting coronavirus research.

American investigators say the hackers broke into computer networks by researching and identifying company employees and customers. After breaking in they stole information from the pharma companies about the drugs they were developing. US officials believe the attempted breach could slow down research into the vaccine because the computer systems will need to be secured.

The world must pay heed to the warnings from America while there is no evidence of manipulation yet, US officials have been asking researchers to make sure that their data has not been corrupted.