FBI Says China Hackers Are Trying to Steal Coronavirus Treatment, Vaccine Research


As researchers are racing to develop treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning of a new threat to organizations conducting such research.

In a public service announcement, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said, “The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by [People’s Republic of China] affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors.”

The statement continued, “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 potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options,” it added.

The agencies also encouraged institutions conducting such research to “assume that press attention affiliating your organization with COVID-19 related research will lead to increased interest and cyber activity.”

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Additionally, they encourage researchers to “patch all systems for critical vulnerabilities,” look for “anomalous activities,” and “identify and suspend access of users exhibiting unusual activity.”

During a press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump was asked about reports that Chinese hackers were trying to steal coronavirus research. 

“So, what else new with China? What else is new? I’m not happy with China,” Trump said, adding, “So, now you’re telling me they’re hacking. So, I just say this … what else is new?”

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The FBI’s warning comes as Congressional Republicans have ramped up their effort to investigate what they see as a variety of threats from the Chinese government. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the new creation of a China task force to investigate a “wide range of China-related issues.”

Republicans have increasingly blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus and suggested taking measures to punish the country for, as they say, not doing enough to curb the spread of the virus. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “We sanctioned the hell out of Iran for spreading terrorism — we ought to sanction the hell out of China for spreading pandemics.”

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Several reports allege that the Chinese government took steps to hide important information about the virus that could have helped slow the spread of it. 

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security released a report that said China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the virus so it could stockpile medical supplies. 

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