China in barrage of cyberattacks to purloin others’ Covid-19 research in move to produce the first vaccine

The cyberattacks “‘through the back door” in attempts to purloin Covid-19 research. (Photo courtesy: CBS)

(, Apr26’20) – As Beijing sought to block, with a degree of success, a European Union report alleging it was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, the country is said to be looking to beat the rest of the world in producing the first vaccine against the bug – which has killed more than 200,000 people since spreading exponentially from Wuhan late last year – by cyber-theft of coronavirus research from US labs, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms, reported Apr 25.

The cyberattacks “‘through the back door” in attempts to purloin Covid-19 research was happening around the clock, every day, the report said, citing CNN.

Security experts have cited China as the main suspects, although Russia is also not ruled out.

Speaking about Chinese economic espionage, John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, has said: “We are very attuned to increased cyber intrusions into medical centers, research centers, universities, anybody that is doing research in this area.

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

“It’s of great importance not just from a commercial value, but whatever countries, company or research lab develops that vaccine first, and is able to produce it, is going to have a significant geopolitical success story.”

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), a specialized team of security experts identifying government-backed phishing and hacking against Google and the people who use its products, was reported to have uncovered countless attacks.

It was quoted as saying: “Our systems have detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to Covid-19, in addition to more than 240 million Covid-related daily spam messages.

“TAG has specifically identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups using Covid-19 themes as lure for phishing and malware attempts—trying to get their targets to click malicious links and download files.”

Its experts were quoted as saying in TAG’s Apr 22 report: “One notable campaign attempted to target personal accounts of US government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises and Covid-19 messaging.

“Some messages offered free meals and coupons in response to Covid-19, others suggested recipients visit sites disguised as online ordering and delivery options.

“Once people clicked on the emails, they were presented with phishing pages designed to trick them into providing their Google account credentials.”

The experts have further said, “We’re not aware of any user having their account compromised by this campaign, but as usual, we notify all targeted users with a ‘government-backed attacker’ warning.”


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