Coronavirus: US accuses Chinese hackers of stealing vaccine research

Coronavirus: US accuses Chinese hackers of stealing vaccine research

Coronavirus: US accuses Chinese hackers of stealing vaccine research

"If it can occur there, we all must be aware it could occur anywhere", William Hyslop, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, said at a news conference Tuesday announcing indictments against the Chinese nationals, joined by officials from the U.S. Attorney General's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The indictment says the hackers in recent months had researched vulnerabilities in the computer networks of companies developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

'The hackers stole terabytes of data which comprised a sophisticated and prolific threat to US networks, ' Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said during a press conference in NY. But prosecutors say the defendants in January conducted reconnaissance on the computer network of a MA biotech firm known to be researching a potential vaccine and searched for vulnerabilities on the network of a Maryland firm less than a week after it said it was conducting similar scientific work. The indictment does not say whether the men managed to steal any of that research or data.

Their primary goal, according to federal prosecutors, was not only personal financial gain but to hand over stolen data and hacked information to China's Ministry of State Security and other Chinese government agencies.

The MSS officers who worked with the defendants in a number of attacks worked for the GSSD at "Number 5, 6th Crossroad, Upper Nonglin Road".

"China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cybercriminals in exchange for those criminals being "on-call" to work for the benefit of the state", explains him. During that time, they also "searched for vulnerabilities" at a Maryland biotech firm that had announced it was researching a vaccine a week earlier.

They allegedly breached defense contractors and stole sensitive military information, prosecutors said, including about military satellite programs and communications systems.

"Targeted industries included, among others, high tech manufacturing; medical device, civil, and industrial engineering; business, educational, and gaming software; solar energy; pharmaceuticals; defence", it said.

The two also allegedly gave the ministry the passwords for personal email accounts belonging to a Hong Kong community organizer as well as a Chinese dissident and former Tiananmen Square protester.

The defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of unauthorized access of a computer, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and seven counts of aggravated identity theft, which each carries a mandatory sentence of two non-consecutive years in prison.

The cyberattacks are part of what American officials describe as a relentless campaign of economic espionage waged by the Chinese state that aims to plunder US companies of their intellectual property.

Blackburn said that China's Communist Party must face consequences for concealing - and now "profiting off" - the Covid-19 pandemic they enabled. "It is what we expect for an organized criminal syndicate".

The charges are the latest in a series of aggressive Trump administration actions targeting China.

While it's unlikely the two will ever face jail time in the USA, maybe now you'll actually update your software the next time your computer prompts you.

But Justice Department officials say bringing charges is an important deterrent, and also helps make China's criminal conduct clear to the rest of the world.

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