CHINA has been accused of trying to steal coronavirus research from US labs, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms, an investigation reveals.
And it appears the regime’s game plan is to beat the rest of the world in producing the first vaccine against the bug – which has killed more than 200,000 people since spreading exponentially from Wuhan.
The claim comes as Beijing unsuccessfully sought to block a European Union report alleging that it was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak.
CNN spoke to cybersecurity experts about a spike in attacks on American government agencies and medical institutions involved in the fight against the new virus.
The broadcaster found that these cyberattacks were occurring "'through the back door" during the coronavirus pandemic at an alarming rate.
Attempts to purloin Covid-19 is happening around the clock, every day, the broadcaster was told.
One unnamed official told CNN that the two main "culprits" targeting – for example – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were Russia and China.
They added: "It is safe to say that there are only two places in the world that could hit HHS the way it's been hit."
Rush for vaccine
Security experts said that China, though, had been singled out as the main source of these Covid-19 related cyberattacks.
Speaking about Chinese economic espionage, John Demers, head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said: "We are very attuned to increased cyber intrusions into medical centers, research centers, universities, anybody that is doing research in this area.
"There is nothing more valuable today than biomedical research relating to vaccines for treatments for the coronavirus.
"It's of great importance not just from a commercial value, but whatever countries, company or research lab develops that vaccine first, and is able to produce it, is going to have a significant geopolitical success story."
Hackers are taking advantage of people working from home as a result of social distancing rules, by increasing the use of ransomware, CNN was told.
An expert said there's been a "500 per cent increase" in attacks directly related to work from home individuals.
Also, phishing campaigns have spiked "over 2,000 per cent" during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Reuters reported on April 17 that foreign state hackers have been targeting US coronavirus treatment research.
A senior FBI cybersecurity official said foreign government hackers have broken into institutions conducting research into treatments for Covid-19, the sometimes fatal respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz told participants in an online panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute that the bureau had seen state-backed hackers poking around the US healthcare sector as well.
“We certainly have seen reconnaissance activity, and some intrusions, into some of those institutions, especially those that have publicly identified themselves as working on Covid-related research,” she added.
Ugoretz said it made sense for organizations working on promising treatments or a potential vaccine to tout their work publicly.
However, she warned, “the sad flipside is that it kind of makes them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have.”
Ugoretz said that state-backed hackers had often targeted the biopharmaceutical industry, but confirmed “it’s certainly heightened during this crisis.”
Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), a specialized team of security experts identifying government-backed phishing and hacking against Google and the people who use its products, has uncovered countless attacks.
It said: "Our systems have detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to Covid-19, in addition to more than 240 million Covid-related daily spam messages.
"TAG has specifically identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups using Covid-19 themes as lure for phishing and malware attempts—trying to get their targets to click malicious links and download files."
Its experts said in TAG's April 22 report that "one notable campaign attempted to target personal accounts of US government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises and Covid-19 messaging.
"Some messages offered free meals and coupons in response to Covid-19, others suggested recipients visit sites disguised as online ordering and delivery options.
"Once people clicked on the emails, they were presented with phishing pages designed to trick them into providing their Google account credentials."
Our systems have detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to Covid-19.
Google said "the vast majority of these messages were sent to spam without any user ever seeing them, and we were able to preemptively block the domains using Safe Browsing.
"We’re not aware of any user having their account compromised by this campaign, but as usual, we notify all targeted users with a 'government-backed attacker' warning."
EU releases report
It was reported by Reuters today that China sought to block a European Union report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to four sources and diplomatic correspondence.
But the report – originally pegged to be published four days ago – was eventually released on Saturday, despite Beijing's intervention.
A senior Chinese official had contacted European officials in Beijing to tell them that, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation."
On the first page of the internal report shared with EU governments on April 20, the EU’s foreign policy arm said: “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image.
"Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”
Yet, on April 6, the New York Times carried a report written by the Chinese Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, saying: "China was hit hard by the pandemic not long ago, so its people can empathize with Americans’ suffering now.
"There has been unpleasant talk between our nations about this disease. But this is not the time for finger-pointing.
"This is a time for solidarity, collaboration and mutual support.
"That is why over 100 Chinese public health experts have traveled abroad to save lives.
"That is why we are sending test kits, protective masks and medical equipment to overrun hospitals in the United States and many other countries.
"That is why we are sharing expertise and hard-learned lessons with countries seeking information and answers."
Source: Read Full Article