The U.S. is accusing hackers allegedly backed by the Chinese government of attempting to steal American research into treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the FBI announced Wednesday.
The FBI made the joint announcement with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), advising U.S. organizations to prioritize cybersecurity when researching coronavirus. The development comes as China faces a surge of criticism for its handling of coronavirus and related information. (RELATED: Democratic Witness In House Coronavirus Hearing Pleaded Guilty In 2019 Sex Abuse Case)
“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,” the statement reads. “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 potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”
Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who has been leading figure in criticizing China’s mishandling of the coronavirus, had strong words for Chinese Leader Xi Jinping on the development.
“Chairman Xi is an arsonist who wants to steal a firetruck and play the hero,” he said in a statement to the Daily Caller. “The Chinese Communist Party will do whatever it takes to beat the United States to the vaccine, and it has nothing to do with saving lives and everything to do with selling propaganda. The Chinese Communist Party’s domestic legitimacy and international clout depend on telling a phony story where China is the hero. It’s the same reason they’re lying about numbers, promoting conspiracy theories, and disappearing whistleblowers
China is facing mounting evidence that it intentionally concealed the severity of its coronavirus outbreaks in Wuhan and elsewhere from the rest of the world. U.S. intelligence concluded in March that the Chinese Communist Party had been falsifying data on both coronavirus cases and deaths in the city. (RELATED: Republican Senators Want To Rename Chinese Embassy Street After Chinese COVID-19 Whistleblower)
German intelligence also reportedly concluded Saturday that Chairman Xi had personally called World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on January 21 and asked him not to announce evidence of human-to-human spread in Wuhan and to delay declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. (RELATED: Chinese Censors Jumped In To Suppress Online Messages Warning About Coronavirus Spread)
After Chinese censors reportedly suppressed an interview with a doctor in Wuhan, who was silenced after warning people of coronavirus and its consequences, internet users in China and around the world disseminated her messages.
The Chinese government’s official tally puts the Wuhan death toll at roughly 3,500, but evidence indicates the true number is around 40,000.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been very critical of China’s handling of the pandemic, saying it should face punishments if it is found to have “knowingly” contributed to the spread of coronavirus.