(Reuters) – Chinese government-linked hackers targeted biotechnology company Moderna Inc., a US-based developer of coronavirus vaccine research, this year to steal data, according to a US security official's official Chinese hacking.
China on Friday rejected the accusation that hackers connected to it had targeted Modern.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against two Chinese citizens accused of spying against the United States, including three named U.S.-based targets involved in medical research to fight the new coronavirus.
The indictment said the Chinese hackers "carried out reconnaissance" against the computer network of a Massachusetts biotechnology company known for working with a coronavirus vaccine in January.
Modern, based in Massachusetts and announcing its COVID-1
Recognition activities can include a range of measures, including searches on public vulnerabilities websites to search for critical accounts after joining a network, say cybersecurity experts. 19659002] "Modern remains very vigilant against potential cyber security threats, maintains an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with external authorities to continuously evaluate threats and protect our valuable information," said company spokesman Ray Jordan, declining to elaborate.
The US security chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details. The FBI and the US Department of Health and Human Services declined to reveal the identity of companies targeted by Chinese hackers.
The mother's vaccine candidate is one of the earliest and largest efforts by the Trump administration to combat the pandemic.
The federal government supports the development of the company's vaccine with almost half a billion dollars and helps Moderna launch a clinical trial of up to 30,000 people starting this month.
private sectors to combat a disease that has killed more than 660,000 people worldwide.
The July 7 indictment alleges that the two Chinese hackers, identified as Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, carried out a decade-long hacking operation that most recently included the focus on medical research groups COVID-19.
Prosecutors said Li and Dong acted as contractors for China's Ministry of State Security, a state intelligence agency. Messages left with multiple accounts registered under Li's digital alias, oro0lxy, were not returned. Contact information for Dong was not available.
China has consistently denied any role in hacking and its spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, dismissed as "baseless" the accusation that hackers linked to the government had targeted Moderna.
China is a world leader in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and it is more worrying that other countries are using hackers to steal its technology, he said.
"We also do not have to engage in theft to achieve this leading position," Wang said.
The two other unidentified medical research companies mentioned in the Attorney General's Office are described as biotechnology companies based in California and Maryland. Prosecutors said the hackers "searched for vulnerabilities" and "conducted reconnaissance" against them.
A court application describes the California-based antiviral drug company and suggested that the Maryland company had announced efforts to develop a vaccine in January. Two companies that can match these descriptions: Gilead Sciences Inc and Novavax Inc.
Gilead spokesman Chris Ridley said the company does not comment on cybersecurity issues. Novavax would not comment on specific cybersecurity activities but said: "Our cybersecurity team has warned of the alleged foreign threats identified in the news."
A security consultant familiar with several hacking surveys of major biotechnology companies over the past year said Chinese groups believed to be largely associated with China's Ministry of State Security are one of the primary forces targeting COVID-19 research globally. This matches the description of the accused hackers as ministries of contractors.