The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday said that the Chinese government has been trying to steal coronavirus research data from the U.S. In response, Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times said the U.S. government has “totally lost their minds.”
People’s Republic of China-affiliated “cyber actors and non-traditional collectors… 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 FBI and CISA said in a joint statement.
The federal agencies said they would reveal additional technical details regarding the alleged threat in the coming days. For now, they’ve advised health care, pharmaceutical, and research sectors working on coronavirus to “maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices” in order to keep out potential hackers and cyber-thieves.
The FBI and CISA advised COVID-19 research organizations that press attention about their work will lead to increased interest and cyber activity. These groups should patch all internet-connected servers, software processing internet data and other systems for critical vulnerabilities, the agencies said.
They also suggested that U.S. organizations should actively scan web applications for unauthorized access, modifications, or anomalous activities, as well as improve users’ credential requirements and require multi-factor authentication.
Newsweek reached out to the FBI for further information. This story will be updated with any response.
In response, Global Times reporter Li Qingqing wrote an op-ed which said that warnings about Chinese government hackers lacked “substantial evidence to support the accusation,” adding, “The despicable war of words is a publicity stunt by certain crank politicians.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the world, especially in the US,” Li wrote. “If any country dares to hack other countries’ labs and steal research results into vaccines, it would be an act against all humanity.”
“Making up such rumors is convenient for the US government, so that US politicians can dodge their own culpability and failures, and instead allegedly hold China accountable for COVID-19 spread in the US”
Near the end of the op-ed, the writer said there’s a possibility that the U.S. will in fact hack China’s labs and steal its research into coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
“China needs to take precautions,” it concluded.
This isn’t the first time the Global Times has criticized the U.S. response to the ongoing epidemic. In an April 13 op-ed, editor-in-chief accused President Donald Trump of “real international hooliganism,” “dereliction of duty” and “extreme nationalism.” The editor predicted that the Democratic party would soon expose Trump somehow, bringing an end to the coronavirus-era U.S. “propaganda war” against China.