US authorities warned on Wednesday that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington's war with Beijing over the pandemic.
The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organizations researching COVID-19 were at risk of targeting and network compromise by the People's Republic of China.
They warned that Chinese government-affiliated cyber actors and others were attempting to obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.
China's efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nations response to COVID-19, they said. The two organizations gave no evidence or examples to support the allegation.
But the warning added to the growing battle between the superpowers over the outbreak that began in China and has killed at least 293,000 worldwide, and more than 83,000 in the United States.
President Donald Trump has accused China of hiding the origins of the virus and not cooperating with the United States and other countries in efforts to research and fight the disease.
The warning on Wednesday also underscored that Washington believes China has continued broad efforts to obtain US commercial and technology secrets by any means possible, under President Xi Jinping's drive to make his country a technological leader this decade.
In February, the US Justice Department indicted four Chinese army personnel suspected of hacking the massive database of credit rating agency Equifax, giving them the personal data of 145 million Americans.
The US recently also charged a number of academics with crimes relating to that alleged effort, both American and Chinese nationals.
On Monday, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of University of Arkansas engineering professor Simon Ang Saw-Teong for hiding ties to the Chinese government and Chinese universities while he worked on projects funded by NASA.
The indictment said Ang was secretly part of the Xi-backed Thousand Talents program, which Washington says China uses to collect research from abroad.
Also on Monday Li Xiaojiang, a former professor at Emory University in Atlanta, admitted tax fraud in a case focused on his hidden earnings from China, also as a participant in the Thousand Talents program.
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