FBI accuses China of attempting to steal US COVID-19 research

It's warning organizations that conduct research to be vigilant.

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Today, the FBI warned that China-backed hackers are attempting to steal COVID-19 research from organizations in the US. In a joint statement, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced that they have observed state-backed hackers attempting to obtain intellectual property, data and research related to vaccines, treatments and testing.

“The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective and efficient treatment options,” the FBI and CISA wrote, adding that organizations conducting COVID-19 research should monitor for suspicious activity.

A few weeks ago, US officials speaking to CNN said they’d seen an uptick in cyberattacks against the Department of Health and Human Services (which manages the CDC), as well as healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies. They alleged that China was behind the attacks, but this warning from the FBI and CISA goes one step further.

While the revelation is upsetting, it’s not entirely surprising. China has been accused of spreading coronavirus misinformation to stir chaos, and officials have blamed China for healthcare-related hacks in the past. It’s unclear what actions the US might take to stop or punish these attacks. As we’ve seen in the past, it can take years to charge “bad actors” involved in such cases.