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US accuses China of supporting cyberattacks to steal COVID-19 vaccine

Washington / The US government accused Chinese intelligence on Tuesday of supporting cyberattacks by two Chinese “hackers” against companies from 11 countries, including Spain, to try to steal vaccine data for COVID-19 and secrets of military technology.

The hackers, identified as 34-year-old Li Xiaoyu and 33-year-old Dong Jiazhi, allegedly engaged in cyber espionage for “personal gain” and also to assist the Chinese Ministry of State Security, one of the intelligence agencies. most mysterious in the world and that, in the USA, would be equivalent to the CIA.

The US claims that the Chinese Ministry of State Security gave hackers information about what were the weaknesses in the software of the companies that had become a target.

In addition, an agent from the Chinese Ministry of State Security was helping them personally, details the indictment of the US prosecutors, which EFE agreed to.

Spain, among the countries attacked

Prosecutors say the defendants began operating in 2009 and have since stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and intellectual property secrets.

In their criminal career, hackers attacked at least 13 companies in the US and 12 other companies located in eleven nations: USA, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The defendants attacked organizations of all kinds and stole information about military programs to protect satellites, high-powered laser systems, and even a program that sought to improve integration between helicopters and amphibious assault ships.

Prosecutors do not mention the names of the companies affected in the indictment and simply make general descriptions.

For example, in the case of Spain, it is explained that the attacked company is dedicated to “electronics and defense”.

The cyberattack against that Spanish firm took place in March 2020 and Chinese hackers managed to steal approximately 900 gigabytes of information on technology for the civil and defense sector, the statement by US prosecutors indicates without giving more details.

A British center that investigates cancer treatments was also attacked; an Australian solar energy company and a Swedish company that designs internet games.

Target: US pharmaceuticals

Meanwhile, in the US case, Chinese “hackers” tried to steal information from at least four companies that are dedicated to medical research: one located in California, another in Maryland, and two in the state of Massachusetts.

Although the name is not mentioned, one of the affected firms in Massachusetts could be the biotechnology company Moderna, well-known for being at the forefront of efforts to obtain a coronavirus vaccine and because its trials are among the most advanced, as it was the first in testing your vaccine in humans.

At a press conference, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said there will be “serious consequences” for China if the State Security Ministry continues its “malicious cyber tactics to steal what they cannot create.”

“Cybercrimes targeted by the Chinese government’s intelligence are not only a threat to the US but also to any other country that supports international standards and the rule of law. This seriously undermines China’s desire to become a respected leader in the world, “said Bowdich.

On May 13, the FBI and another US intelligence agency already claimed in a report that Chinese “hackers” were attacking US research centers to steal information about the vaccines and treatments being tested for the coronavirus.

However, this is the first time that the US has accused Chinese nationals of these alleged cyberattacks.

In total, the US filed 11 criminal charges against the accused, which in some cases carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

However, both individuals reside in China and it is unlikely that they will ever be tried in the US, because Beijing and Washington do not have an extradition treaty.

Bilateral tension

Since arriving at the White House in 2017, US President Donald Trump has consistently accused China of stealing the intellectual property of American companies, something that Beijing has flatly denied.

The background to today’s announcement by Washington is the trade war between the two economic powers for two years, the technological war, an underlying struggle for hegemony and, more recently, the exchange of blame between Beijing and Washington on which of the two originated the current coronavirus pandemic. (July 21, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

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