US coronavirus research hit by foreign hackers

US coronavirus research hit by foreign hackers
Pharmaceutical companies, research laboratories, hospitals, and health care providers have all been hit. Source: CNN
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Daily US Times: US medical institutions and government agencies, who are leading the pandemic response are facing a growing wave of cyberattacks by criminal groups and nation states, and Trump administration is pointing the finger at China for attempting to steal coronavirus research.

Pharmaceutical companies, research laboratories, hospitals, and health care providers have all been hit, officials say. An official with direct knowledge of the attacks said the Department of Health and Human Services – which oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has been struck by a surge of daily strikes.

The official, who has knowledge with the attacks, said: “It is safe to say that there are only two places in the world that could hit (the Department of Health and Human Services) the way it’s been hit.”

The official said that the primary culprits for the HHS attacks are China and Russia, because of the size and scope of the actions.

After some hesitance to attribute the wide-ranging attacks across the medical sector to any specific countries — whether a lack of certainty or for political reasons — top national security officials have decided to single out China.

The Department of Justice says they are particularly concerned about attacks by Chinese hackers targeting US labs and hospitals to steal research related to coronavirus.

John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said: “It’s certainly the logical conclusion of everything I’ve said.”

“We are very attuned to increased cyber intrusions into medical centers, research centers, universities, anybody that is doing research in this area,” he added when asked specifically about China’s actions during an online discussion Thursday.

Demers said: “There is nothing more valuable today than biomedical research relating to vaccines for treatments for the coronavirus.”

Calling out China

Since the outbreak of the virus, cyber espionage from China against the United States has spiked. Leading cybersecurity group FireEye reported last month that Chinese group APT41 has carried out “one of the broadest campaigns by a Chinese cyber espionage actor we have observed in recent years.”

“The biggest threat isn’t our ability to work with China on cyber, it’s to make sure we have the resources available to protect ourselves from Chinese cyberattacks,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Thursday. Mr Pompeo has been consistently attacking China over the pandemic.

During the coronavirus crisis, attacks from criminal groups and nation states have come in a multitude of forms with numerous different goals. The attackers are posing as US authority or agency with phishing emails to steal data and information, denial of service, ransomware attacks, and disinformation, among others, both on the open internet and darknet.

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