Chinese hackers accused by Justice Department of attempting to steal U.S. coronavirus research

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The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it had accused two Chinese hackers of attempting to steal U.S. research into COVID-19 and other sensitive information from businesses and government agencies.

Indictment of 11 Charges Against Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 31, Alleges Chinese Nationals Hacked Computer Systems of Hundreds of Businesses, Government Organizations, and Dissenters and members of the clergy.

They are also said to have broken into the accounts of Democratic and human rights activists in the United States, Hong Kong and mainland China. The Justice Ministry alleges that their ten-year scam was not only for personal financial gain, but also for the benefit of the Chinese government.

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“Hackers have stolen terabytes of data from hundreds of targets, establishing themselves as a prolific threat to US and foreign networks,” Deputy National Security Attorney General John Demers told a press conference in New York.

Li and Dong, trained in computer application technologies at the same Chinese university in Chengdu, targeted countries with high-tech industries, including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, authorities said. Industries included high-tech medical device manufacturing, industrial engineering, business, educational and gaming software, and pharmaceutical energy and defense.

“In at least one instance, hackers have sought to extort cryptocurrency from a victim entity, threatening to disclose the victim’s stolen source code on the Internet,” the FBI said. “More recently, defendants have probed vulnerabilities in the computer networks of companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technologies and treatments. ”

Li and Dong’s actions are “real examples” of two disturbing trends, Demers said.

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“China is using cyber intrusions as part of its ‘steal, replicate and replace’ technology development strategy,” he said, adding that Beijing “also provides a safe haven for hackers who, as in this cases, partially hack. for personal gain but willing to help the state and on call to do so. ”

Demers claimed that China had reinforced its brazen willingness to engage in theft through computer intrusions contrary to its international commitments.

“China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in this shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cybercriminals in exchange for these ‘on-call’ criminals for working for the benefit of the state, here to feed the Chinese Communist Party’s insatiable hunger for the hard-won intellectual property of American and non-Chinese companies, including COVID-19 research, ”said Demers.

China has faced a global backlash led largely by the United States for downplaying and failing to contain the coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan in central China, in 2019.

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China has strongly rebuffed the charges and accused the United States of using the global pandemic for politics.

China has yet to respond to the charges against Li and Dong.

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