The FBI accuses China of trying to steal U.S. coronavirus vaccine research

Jenny McGrath

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have accused China of attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine research from the U.S.

“The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by PRC-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors,” according to a joint announcement Wednesday.

“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 agencies said.

The FBI and CISA recommend that organizations conducting research increase their cybersecurity practices, including patching systems to close any critical vulnerabilities, scanning web applications for unauthorized access or modifications, and requiring multi-factor authentication.

The agency’s warning comes after a recent joint warning from the U.S. and the U.K. that groups “are actively targeting organizations involved in both national and international COVID-19 responses,” including “healthcare bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organizations, and local governments.”

The Trump administration has blamed China for being the source of the pandemic, including unproven claims by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab.

He later walked back the claim after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement saying it “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.