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Exclusive: Hackers Supported by Chinese Targeted for Modern Vaccine Firm COVID-19



WASHINGTON – Chinese government-linked hackers target Modern biotechnology company Inc., a leading developer of US-based coronavirus vaccine research, earlier this year in an effort to steal valuable data , according to a U.S. security official following the Chinese hacking activity.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice made public an indictment of two Chinese nationals accused of explaining the U.S., including three unnamed U.S. targets based on medical research to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The indictment alleges that Chinese hackers “conducted the reconnaissance” against the computer network of a well-known Massachusetts biotechnology firm that is working on a coronavirus vaccine in January.

Modern, which is based in Massachusetts and announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in January, confirmed to Reuters that the company had been in contact with the FBI for some time and had learned of the suspects’ activities. information “from the hacking group mentioned at the end. week of indictment.

Recognition activities could include a wide range of actions, including surveying public websites for vulnerabilities to issue important bills after joining a network, say cybersecurity experts.

“Modern remains highly vigilant for potential cybersecurity threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with external authorities to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information. , “said spokesman Ray Jordan, who declined to provide further detail.

The U.S. security officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have refused to disclose the identities of companies targeted by Chinese hackers.

The Modern vaccine candidate is one of the first and largest bets by the Trump administration to fight the pandemic. The federal government is supporting the company’s vaccine development by nearly half a billion dollars and helping Modern launch a clinical trial of up to 30,000 people starting this month.

China is also rushing to develop a vaccine, bringing together its state, military and private sectors to fight a disease that has killed more than 660,000 people worldwide.

A July 7 indictment last week alleges that the two Chinese hackers, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, led a ten-year hacking spree that recently included targeting medical research groups COVID- 19.

Prosecutors said Li and Dong acted as contractors for China’s Ministry of State Security, a state intelligence agency. Messages left with multiple accounts registered under Li’s digital alias, oro0lxy, were not returned. Contact details for Dong were not available.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington referred to Reuters for the recent comments of the Chinese Foreign Ministry which said: “China has long been a major victim of theft and cyber attacks” and its officials “strongly oppose and fight” such activities . The Chinese government has consistently denied any role in piracy incidents around the world. The embassy spokesman did not address specific questions sent by email.

The other two unnamed medical research companies mentioned in the Justice Department indictment are described as California-based and Maryland-based biotechnology companies. Prosecutors said the hackers “searched for vulnerabilities” and “did the reconnaissance” against them.

The court filing describes the California firm as working on antiviral drug research and suggested the Maryland company publicly announced efforts to develop a vaccine in January. Two companies that may agree with these descriptions: Gilead Sciences Inc. and Novavax Inc.

Gilead spokesman Chris Ridley said the firm does not comment on cybersecurity issues. Novavax did not comment on specific cybersecurity activities but said: “Our cybersecurity team has been warned against the alleged foreign threats identified in the news.”

A security adviser familiar with multiple hacking investigations involving premier biotechnology firms over the past year said Chinese hacking groups believed they are generally associated with China’s security ministry. -China are one of the primary forces targeting COVID-19 research, globally. This is in line with the description of the accused hackers, as MSS contractors.


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