The Trump administration is calling out the Chinese government over alleged attempts to hack and steal information for developing a coronavirus vaccine.
The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Wednesday that state-sponsored Chinese hackers are targeting US researchers in cyberattacks seeking information on vaccines for COVID-19. The hackers are also looking to steal data related to testing for the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to treatments, according to the agencies.
"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 joint warning said.
The agencies said they would be releasing more technical details about the hacking attempts "in the coming days."
Their warning recommended that researchers patch all their systems for critical vulnerabilities and require multifactor authentication for accounts. Companies at risk should also know that more press attention will mean a higher chance of hacking attempts, the warnings said.
The Chinese embassy didn't respond to a request for comment.
Government-backed hackers are using cyberattacks to steal information from other countries, security researchers have found. Cybersecurity firm FireEye said it's found that state-sponsored hackers from Vietnam had been targeting the Chinese government for information on how it's been handling the COVID-19 outbreak.
Reuters also reported that hackers linked to Iran had been targeting attacks against Gilead Sciences, the company behind the coronavirus drug remdesivir.
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"China's efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation's response to COVID-19," CISA and the FBI said Wednesday. "This announcement is intended to raise awareness for research institutions and the American public and provide resources and guidance for those who may be targeted."
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