There are about 90 different ventures in the US that are aiming to find a cure for COVID-19. In light of this, China has allegedly unleashed its hackers upon the US. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the FBI have issued a warning. The CISA belongs to the Department of Homeland Security. On May 13, both the FBI and the CISA issued a rare joint statement. In this statement, they revealed that malicious actors were trying to illegally access and identify valuable intellectual property (IP). They were also trying to access public health information related to treatments, testing, and vaccines. They tried to access this information from people and networks associated with COVID-19 research. This is alleged to be the China stealing research against the US.
The United States has claimed that China is using its hackers to try and steal COVID-19 research. Chinese stealing research hackers are targeting American pharmaceutical companies and research establishments working on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The FBI and the CISA have also said that these attempts put the US COVID-19 response under threat. They have said that research, pharmaceutical, and healthcare sectors are at risk.
In April as well, the CISA had issued a joint warning with the United Kingdom’s National Security Agency. This warning didn’t name China but warned about the advanced persistent threat (APT). They had stated that groups might try to target international and local bodies involved with COVID-19 response. They had said that healthcare entities, research, pharmaceutical organizations, and government bodies were at risk.
Mike Pompeo’s Statement
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also issued a statement in this regard. His statement came just one day after the FBI’s and CISA’s joint statement. On May 14, Mike Pompeo publicly accused China of stealing US intellectual property relating to COVID-19 research. Pompeo said that the US condemns the use of non-traditional collectors and cyber actors affiliated with the People’s Republic of China. His claim is that Chinese backed hackers had tried to steal information and intellectual property related to COVID-19 research. He also said that China must put an end to such malicious activities. Such actions jeopardize the US’s ability to develop and distribute safe and secure vaccines and treatments. He also said China’s actions throughout the pandemic have been counterproductive.
In his statement, Mike Pompeo said that he wasn’t asking for anything untoward. He again blamed China for hiding facts about the origin of the virus and its spread. Pompeo said that China must act with transparency and layout of all the facts. He said that the US was happy to provide technical assistance if China needs it. All nations must come together and cooperate in order to fight this virus. Pompeo said that we also need to ensure that something like this never happens again as it claims thousands of lives. China must become a part of this cooperative effort and not use subversive means just to get ahead. Another allegation that Pompeo made is that there is reasonable certainty that coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan. He said that he couldn’t be absolutely sure, but there was enough evidence that he could be certain about this.
When a world superpower makes such accusations against you publicly, you cannot keep quiet. China came at it with a heavily worded response against the allegations. They termed the statement that Chinese hackers were trying to steal COVID-19 research as slander. China also made a terse statement that scapegoating and smearing others would not eradicate the virus. Zhao Lijian who is the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry also made a statement. He said that the US officials were trying to blame Beijing as they were unable to handle the pandemic within the US.
This Accusation is sure to fuel tensions between the US and China. The two countries have already been hurling accusations at each other since the start of the pandemic. The US has accused China of starting the COVID-19 pandemic. The US has even gone to the extent of implying that China started the COVID-19 pandemic intentionally. President Trump also accused China of not warning the WHO and the world about COVID-19 on time. Another accusation that the US throws at China is that China has vastly underreported its number of cases of COVID-19. The US has accused China of hacking and accessing intellectual property data of the US in the past as well.
The US has also accused Iran of hacking and stealing intellectual property. The Wall Street Journal has said that hackers from Iran had attacked Gilead Science, who makes Remdesivir. It was recently given emergency-use authorization by the US FDA. This caused some excitement in the world which is ravaged by the Coronavirus with no cure in sight. In light of such hacking attempts, the recent incident with China doesn’t bode well. The US secretary of state himself has come down heavily upon China with tersely worded statements.
The Trump administration has launched ‘Operation Warp Speed’. It is aimed at expediting the hunt for a vaccine through public-private partnerships. The candidates for a vaccine have been brought down to 14 from 93. These 14 candidates will further be reduced to 7 and 3 or 4 will enter clinical trials in January.
This latest spar of words comes just weeks after another controversy involving counterfeit masks shipped from China. China is receiving flak from the world over for obscuring facts about the origin and spread of COVID-19. Many countries who have bought Chinese testing kits, masks, and PPEs are also complaining that they have received counterfeits. China has been combating this negative purview with aggressive diplomacy and commitment to helping other countries.
The entire world is suffering from the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a time when all countries should come together and cooperate in order to repel the pandemic. This is not the time that two of the largest world economies should be bickering with one another. A comprehensive dialogue should be initiated to handle both China’s and US’ concerns.