Washington: US security officials who track US hackers said that this year, hackers associated with the Chinese government targeted the biotech company Monada, a US-based coronavirus vaccine research developer that aims to steal data . Last Friday, China dismissed allegations against Monaco related to hackers.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an indictment against two Chinese citizens accused of espionage, including three unnamed U.S. targets involved in medical research to fight the new coronavirus. The indictment alleges that Chinese hackers conducted reconnaissance on the computer network of a Massachusetts biotech company in January that is currently working on a coronavirus vaccine.
Moderna, based in Massachusetts, announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in January. Zhou’s indictment.
Cyber security experts say that reconnaissance activities can include a series of actions, including detecting vulnerabilities in public websites in order to find important accounts after entering the network. Company spokesman Ray Jordan declined to give more details. He said: “Moderna is always highly vigilant against potential cyber security threats, maintaining internal teams, external support services, and good working relationships with external agencies to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information.”
An unnamed US security official did not provide more details. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Department of Health and Human Services refused to disclose the identity of the company that was hacked by China. Moderna’s vaccine candidate is one of the Trump administration’s earliest and biggest bets against the epidemic.
The federal government has supported the development of the company’s vaccine with nearly $1 billion, and has helped Moderna conduct clinical trials for up to 30,000 people starting this month. China is also vying to develop a vaccine to bring its country, military and private sectors together to fight a disease that has killed more than 660,000 people worldwide.
The July 7 indictment stated that two Chinese hackers, namely Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, had engaged in a decade-long hacking boom. The most recent attack was on the COVID-19 medical research team. The prosecutor said that Li and Dong were contractors of the Ministry of National Security, the national intelligence agency. The emails left by several accounts registered with Li’s digital alias oro0lxy were not returned. There is no contact information for Dong. China has always denied playing any role in hacking activities. Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, used “baseless” as a reason to deny hackers who had ties to the government targeting Moderna.
He said that China is a world leader in the development of coronavirus vaccines and is more worried about other countries using hackers to steal its technology. Wang said: “We absolutely do not need, nor do we have to participate in theft to achieve this leading position.” Two other unidentified medical research companies mentioned in the Justice Department’s indictment are described as biotechnology companies located in California and Maryland. . Prosecutors said the hackers “looked for loopholes” and “conducted reconnaissance.”
The court document described the California company being engaged in antiviral drug research and suggested that the Maryland company publicly announced its efforts to develop a vaccine in January. Two companies that may fit the above description: Gilead Sciences Inc. and Novavax Inc. Gilead spokesperson Chris Ridley said the company did not comment on cybersecurity issues. Novavax will not comment on specific cybersecurity activities, but said: “Our cybersecurity team has received alerts about suspected foreign threats discovered in the news.”
A security consultant familiar with multiple hacking investigations involving major biotech companies last year said that the Chinese group, which is believed to have extensive ties with the Ministry of National Security of China, is one of the major forces in global research on COVID-19. This matches the description of the alleged hacker (ministerial contractor).