Beijing-backed hackers targetted US biotech company Moderna, which is developing a potential COVID-19 vaccine, a US security official working on Chinese hacking activity has revealed. The charge comes amid Washington's accusations that Chinese hackers trying to steal US research on coronavirus vaccine. Moderna, which announced its vaccine candidate in January, has scheduled a human clinical trial this month.
With no vaccine in sight, the global pandemic that started in Wuhan province of China in December last year has so far infected nearly 17.5 million people globally. The US is one of the leading countries with over 4.58 million cases and more than 1,54,000 deaths due to coronavirus.
FBI Warned Moderna Inc About Hacking Threat
The recent revelation comes days after the indictment of two Chinese nationals, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, by the US Justice Department. The hackers were charged with spying on three US-based firms involved in medical research related to fighting the global pandemic.
The indictment stated that the Chinese hackers "conducted reconnaissance" against the computer network of a Massachusetts biotech firm known to be working on a coronavirus vaccine in January, reported Reuters.
Speaking to the outlet, the unnamed security official revealed that the Chinese government-linked hackers targeted Moderna Inc in a bid to steal valuable data earlier this year.
Stating that FBI had alerted them about the suspected information reconnaissance activities by the Chinese-backed hacking group, Moderna stated that it remains highly vigilant.
"Moderna remains highly vigilant to potential cybersecurity threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with outside authorities to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information," spokesman Ray Jordan told Reuters.
Chinese Nationals Stole Data From Other Countries Too
The crackdown on the China-backed spies was conducted after the US ordered the shutdown of Houston based Chinese consulate terming it as the hub of spying activities.
In retaliation, Chinese authorities had ordered the closure of the US embassy located in Chengdu, one of the country's remote inland regions, which served primarily as visa-issuing office for Chinese nationals planning to visit the US.
Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, the Chinese nationals, were charged for spying on US companies located in Maryland, Massachusetts and California, involved in coronavirus research. Former students of electrical engineering students Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi have reportedly stolen terabytes of data from high-tech companies globally.