The U.S. Justice Department has accused China of helping two former students with hacking companies that are working on vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus, The Washington Post reports.
In an indictment unsealed by a court in Spokane, Washington, on Tuesday, the U.S. accused the Chinese Ministry of State Security, a civilian spy agency, of assisting former engineering students Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, who have been charged with hacking multiple companies working on high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and gaming software development, as well as individual dissidents, clergy and human rights activists in the U.S., China and Hong Kong.
The indictment alleges that the two former students “researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology.”
These firms were not named, but some were located in major technology hubs like Massachusetts, California and Washington state.
“We don’t have a cyber problem — we have a China, Russia, Iran and North Korea problem,” Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of the public policy think tank Silverado Policy Accelerator and co-founder of the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, told the Post. “That’s because even when we are not dealing with nation-state activity, we are dealing with these four states that are protecting or even paying cyber criminals operating within their borders.”
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