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Exclusive: Chinese hackers targeting the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine company



WASHINGTON – Chinese government hackers have targeted the US-based biotechnology company Moderna Inc., a leading US-based coronavirus vaccine developer earlier this year in a bid to steal valuable data. According to a US security official, he is monitoring Chinese hacking activity.

Last week, the US Department of Justice released charges against two Chinese nationals accused of espionage from the United States, including three unnamed US targets involved in medical research to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The allegation states that Chinese hackers “conducted a survey” against a computer network of a biotechnology company in Massachusetts, which is known to be working on a coronavirus vaccine in January.

Moderna, based in Massachusetts, announced its candidate for the COVID-19 vaccine in January, confirmed to Reuters that the company had been in contact with the FBI and had been informed of suspicious “intelligence activities” by the hacker group mentioned in the latest report. week of indictment.

Research activities can involve a wide range of actions, including identifying vulnerabilities in public websites in identifying important accounts after joining the network, say cybersecurity experts.

“Modernity remains very vigilant against potential cyber security threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with external authorities to continually assess threats and protect our valuable information,” said spokesman Ray Jordan, declining to provide further details.

The U.S. security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details. The FBI and the US Department of Health and Human Services have refused to reveal the identities of the companies targeted by Chinese hackers.

The Moderny vaccine candidate is one of the first and biggest strikes of the Trump administration to fight the pandemic. The federal government is supporting the company’s vaccine development with nearly half a billion dollars and is helping a modern clinical trial launch up to 30,000 people earlier this month.

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

A July 7 indictment alleged that two Chinese hackers, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, had a ten-year hacker fever, most recently targeting COVID-19 medical research groups.

Prosecutors claimed that Li and Dong acted as suppliers to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, a state intelligence agency. Messages left in multiple accounts registered under the digital alias Li, oro0lxy were not returned. Contact information for Dong was not available.

The Chinese embassy in Washington has referred Reuters to recent remarks by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which said: “China has long been a victim of computer theft and attacks” and its officials “strongly disagree and fight” against such activities. The Chinese government has consistently denied any role in hacking incidents around the world. The embassy spokesman did not address the specific issues sent by e-mail.

The other two unnamed medical research companies named in the Justice Department’s lawsuit are referred to as biotechnology companies based in California and Maryland. Prosecutors said the hackers were “looking for vulnerabilities” and “conducting research” against them.

The court file describes a company in California that is working on research into antiviral drugs, and suggests that Maryland publicly announce its vaccine development efforts in January. These companies could correspond to two companies: Gilead Sciences Inc and Novavax Inc.

Gilead spokesman 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 been alerted to the alleged foreign threats identified in the reports.”

A security adviser, familiar with several hacker investigations involving top biotech companies in the past year, said that Chinese hacker groups, which are believed to be heavily associated with the Chinese Ministry of State Security, are one of the main research forces. COVID-19 worldwide. This corresponds to the description of the accused hackers as MSS suppliers.


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