The U.S. State Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security issued a statement rebuking efforts by China-tied hackers to steal COVID-19 research amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The United States condemns attempts by cyber actors and non-traditional collectors affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to steal U.S. intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 research, as announced in a May 13, 2020 warning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a statement Thursday.
“The United States calls on the PRC to cease this malicious activity.”
The research was tied to treatments, including vaccines, according to the May 13 warning, which declared, “The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”
“The PRC’s behavior in cyberspace is an extension of its counterproductive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pompeo’s statement continued. “While the United States and our allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives, the PRC continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”
The Trump administration has often rebuked China as a malign actor amid President Donald Trump’s pressing for a mass reworking of trade between the world economic powers, including claiming Chinese propaganda has been used to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.
The Trump campaign has used former Vice President Joe Biden’s past ties – through his son’s business dealings – and past statements about China in election ads.
China has denied attempts to steal U.S. coronavirus research, because it claims its research is better.
“China’s Foreign Ministry and experts have slammed rumors hyped by the U.S. side that Chinese hackers and spies are trying to steal their research materials for COVID-19 vaccine and drug development, saying the two countries are developing different products and that China is actually leading in vaccine development,” the communist state-run People’s Daily reported.
“China leads in R&D for COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies, and any attempt to smear or frame China without evidence is immoral,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.