The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a joint warning to the public on Wednesday about Chinese hackers targeting organizations researching coronavirus.
The warning calls out Chinese state-affiliated hackers who were “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,” the warning added.
The agencies called on U.S. organizations to expect increases in cyber activity, and recommended those organizations strengthen cybersecurity measures and resolve vulnerabilities for their networks, as well as actively scan and monitor systems for unauthorized activities.
“Health care, pharmaceutical, and research sectors working on COVID-19 response should all be aware they are the prime targets of this activity and take the necessary steps to protect their systems,” said an additional FBI statement.
“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19. This announcement is intended to raise awareness for research institutions and the American public and provide resources and guidance for those who may be targeted,” the statement added.
The public warning comes after CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Agency identified state-sponsored hackers using password spraying tactics to steal data from U.S. pharmaceutical companies and research institutes, although their report did not identify the hackers’ country of origin.
China’s attempts to hack and steal coronavirus vaccine research comes after President Donald Trump announced ”Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the vaccine development process.
China has already been involved in disinformation campaigns against the U.S. throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. State Department has determined that China, Russia, and Iran have been propagating identical disinformation narratives, which blame the U.S. for inadequate coronavirus response, while praising China and avoiding discussions of the virus’ origin in Wuhan, China.