U.S. Charges Chinese Hackers For Targeting COVID-19 Vaccine Research
Hack attacks against research organizations and academic institutions have seen a surge amid the pandemic. And now two Chinese nationals have been accused of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine research and hacking companies in the United States and abroad, reports AFP.
The two hackers, Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, targeted hundreds of companies including defense contractors, non-governmental organizations, individual dissidents, clergy, and human rights activists, in several countries including the United States, China, and Hong Kong, revealed Assistant Attorney General John Demers. He has further stated that the Chinese hackers acted out “for their own personal gain” in certain instances and in others for the benefit of China’s Ministry of State Security.
As per the AFP report, the US Justice Department has also revealed that Li and Dong were classmates at an electrical engineering college in Chengdu, capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. They have also been found to be engaged in a computer hacking campaign for the past 10 years and have targeted companies in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, and the Netherlands among others.
Some of the Targeted industries include high tech manufacturing, medical device, civil, and industrial engineering, business, educational, etc. They were also found to seek vulnerabilities in computer networks of companies developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. They have also been accused of stealing source code from software companies, data around drugs under development from pharmaceutical firms, and more. However, they haven’t been found to have compromised any COVID-19 vaccine research.
This is not the first time hackers have tried to break into COVID-19 vaccine research. Recently, American, British, and Canadian Governments also accused the hacking group, Cozy Bear or APT29, tied to the Russian government for trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research from academic institutions. As part of the hack attack, Russian hackers used malware and fraud emails, to target British, Canadian, and American institutions.