The United States Department of Justice has officially charged two Chinese nationals for hacking into the computer systems of the country for reportedly trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine data. According to the Chinese nationals, there were sponsored by China to break into the said systems.
Reports of the incident come as the world races to find a cure for the virus pandemic which plagued the world.
The allegations against the country cement their position against the United States, joining the ranks of Iran, North Korea, and Russia in providing support towards hacking groups to help further the nation’s position against the rest of the world.
The Department of Justice accused 34-year-old Li Xiaoyu and 33-year-old Dong Jiazhi for launching a global hacking campaign that targetted stealing industry trade secrets.
The two individuals are charged with 11 counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized access of a computer, and aggravated identity theft, notes CNBC.
The indictment on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, states that the two accused Chinese nationals successfully stole terabytes of private information from numerous countries. Besides the United States, CNBC states that the other nations whose data have been compromised include Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Based on the reports, The Guardian revealed that both Dong and Li targeted a number of industry sectors, including high tech manufacturing, industrial engineering, pharmaceuticals, education, business, gaming software, medical devices, and civil works.
The DOJ also accused the hackers of threatening victims in the exchange for cryptocurrency, as well as exploiting computer systems’ vulnerabilities in pharmaceutical companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatment.
Among the companies targeted by the hackers are those that hail from California, Maryland, and Massachusetts. However, The Guardian maintains that the Chinese nationals did not compromise any vaccine-related research.
A few hours after the indictment of the two Chinese nationals, The Guardian states China UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming issued a statement via social networking platform Twitter. In a tweet, Xiaoming said, “Such accusations constitute disrespect for Chinese scientists & their achievements; they could also undermine international cooperation on R&D. The world must strongly oppose and reject such groundless claims.”
While the Chinese UK ambassador has issued a statement on the issue, the Chinese Embassy in Washington has yet to make a statement on the indictment, reports CNBC.