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U.S. Accuses Chinese Hackers of Stealing COVID-19 Data for China

Updated: Jul 24

On 21st July, the Justice Department of the USA accused a pair of Chinese hackers, of targeting vaccine development on behalf of the CIA as part of a broader yearlong campaign of global cyber theft aimed at industries such as PMCs, high-end manufacturing and solar energy development companies.


The department named the suspect's Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi and had called them a blended threat, who sometimes worked besides Chinese spy services. The Justice Department has secured an indictment against them and has even said that this kind of attack was the first one to target vaccine research.

Government officials say the suspects have previously stolen information about other Chinese intelligence targets like human rights activists.


The indictment comes as Trump has upped the ante with his criticism of China and its government, both for espionage and its failure to contain the pandemic in its early stages. The justice department claims that China’s meddling via its covert activities might set back vaccine research. The accusations have also come in the light of the US and its allies accusing Russia of trying to steal information on vaccine development.


The indictment suggests that China has done far less to curb its espionage based activities than it had when it signed the non-aggression pact with the USA in late 2015, that was aimed at stopping China's efforts to steal American technological know-how.

The agreement did slow down China’s industrial espionage activities for about 18 months but as of the DoJ, Mr. Li and Mr. Dong have continuously been trying to steal secrets in both 2016 and 2017, even when the Chinese government said, that the agreement was being honored sincerely. Foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said that the government opposed all forms of cyber attacks and threats.


It is unlikely that the suspects will be bought to trial because China doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. The charges were the latest in a continued effort by the DoJ to secure indictments against private groups and intelligence officials involved in hacking campaigns as a deterrent.


The deputy director of the FBI has called the hacks a part of a campaign of economic coercion akin to “what we expect from an organized crime syndicate.” The suspects have targeted hundreds of computer networks and have caused many unnamed companies to lose hundreds of millions of dollars of intellectual property. Whether their cyber-attack was successful or not is yet to be revealed to the public. While the indictment revealed only 2 names, unlike the larger Russian hacking group seeking vaccine data, the DoJ portrayed their work as far-reaching and long-running, going so far 2009.


Senator Chris Van Hollen in an interview has said, “We need a comprehensive strategy to deter the serial theft of strategic U.S. secrets, t is not enough to have these one-off indictments. We need to make it clear up front that there will be a very high price to pay for foreign actors that attempt to steal important trade secrets, whether it relates to the coronavirus or semiconductors or 5G networks.”

The suspects were detected 5 years ago, performing other espionage based activities for the Chinese, government and the indictment charges them with 11 separate cybercrimes.


Reporter: Jovan H

Bangalore, India | epicenter.newsmedia@gmail.com

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