US charges two Chinese men for Covid-19 research ‘cyber-spies’

US charges two Chinese men for Covid-19 research 'cyber-spies'
The US accused China for Covid-19 research 'cyber-spies'. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: The US justice department has accused China of patronizing hackers who are targeting labs developing Covid-19 vaccines. Officials have charged two Chinese men who allegedly spied on US companies that are doing coronavirus research and got help from state agents for other thefts.

The indictment comes amid the US rolled a crackdown on Chinese cyber espionage.

The US, UK and Canada last week accused Russia of seeking to steal research related to Covid-19.

The accusations against former electrical engineering students Dong Jiazhi Li Xiaoyu released on Tuesday include charges of wire fraud conspiracy and trade secret theft.

What are the accusations?

Prosecutors said the two men spied on a Massachusetts biotech firm in January which was known to be researching possible vaccine for Covid-19 – the diseases caused by coronavirus.

The men also hacked a Maryland company less than a week after it said it was researching Covid-19.

The US Officials called the Chinese men private hackers who occasionally received support from Chinese intelligence agents, including an officer from the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).

Prosecutors alleged that they previously stole “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property, trade secrets and other valuable business information” beginning in 2009,

The indictment unsealed in Washington state said the two men recently “researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology”.

Countries where firms were targeted include Australia, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The hackers were able to infiltrate a British artificial intelligence firm, a Spanish defence contractor, and a Australian solar energy company, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said the men – who reside in China – at times acted in their own self-interest – including one occasion when they demanded a ransom from a company in exchange for not releasing its private information – but at other times “were stealing information of obvious interest” to the Chinese government.

The hackers “worked with, were assisted by, and operated with the acquiescence of” the MSS, the indictment says

The two Chinese men also allegedly stole military data and provided the Chinese government with the passwords of a democracy activist in Hong Kong and a former Tiananmen Square protester.

Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, dismissed the idea that the country is waging cyber attacks to steal US Covid-19 research as “absurd”.

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