On Tues. July 21, the U.S. accused China of sponsoring a pair of hackers that targeted Covid-19 vaccine development in biotech companies globally.
Researchers in China continue their development of a Covid-19 vaccine. Noel Celis for Agence France-Presse (AFP) - Getty Images
These suspects, labeled as Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, were alleged to be working with the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), a civilian spy agency responsible for foreign intelligence. In a recently released indictment, the Justice Department charged them with a wide-ranging conspiracy to hack computers and steal terabytes of data for over a decade.
"More recently, they researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology." (Aforementioned indictment)
Former classmates at an electrical engineering college, the pair used their training to hack a wide range of victims, including companies engaged in high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and gaming software development. This year alone, Li and Dong compromised a British artificial-intelligence firm, a Spanish defense contractor, and an Australian solar energy engineering company.
These accusations arrived several days after the U.S., Britain, and Canada issued a joint statement regarding another set of hackers. Allegedly, the Russian intelligence agency is linked to a group targeting the development of Covid-19 vaccines as well.
"China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cybercriminals..." - John C. Demers, head of Justice Department's National Security Division
"We don’t have a cyber problem — we have a China, Russia, Iran and North Korea problem... ...these four states that are protecting or even paying cybercriminals operating within their borders." - Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of CrowdStrike