China refused to cooperate with international researchers working on a coronavirus vaccine, according to a recent intelligence report. Now, Chinese spies and hackers are attempting to steal critical COVID-19 research conducted by American scientists.
The Trump administration is preparing to announce this week that China's "most skilled hackers and spies" are actively working to steal the sensitive data, the New York Times reported.
The warning, which will reportedly come from the FBI and Homeland Security, will state that China's communist government is seeking to steal "valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing," according to the Times.
The warning will also state that China is using "nontraditional actors," which the Times reported is a reference to Chinese students who seek to steal sensitive information from American universities and research institutes.
Western governments and cybersecurity researchers at various firms have said they have seen different hacking groups focus attention on coronavirus in recent months and have characterized that development as troubling, though not surprising.
British and U.S. cybersecurity officials last week delivered a joint advisory that pharmaceutical companies, universities and other organizations that work on medical research were being targeted by nation-state hackers in relation to the pandemic. The alert did not name any specific country, but warned of a relatively unsophisticated technique known as password spraying that attempts to compromise an organization by rapidly guessing common account login passwords.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied the accusations, according to WSJ.
"China is leading in the research of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment. It is immoral for anyone to engage in rumor-mongering without presenting any evidence," he said in response.
The warning is the Trump administration's latest step to pin responsibility for the pandemic on China.
Beijing's negligence has become increasingly uncovered in recent weeks. Intelligence reports indicate that China covered up the truth about the virus, destroyed laboratory evidence, "disappeared" scientists who dared speak out, and refused to cooperate with the international community. All the while, China was hoarding medical supplies for itself.
Over the weekend, German newspaper Der Spiegel also reported, citing German intelligence, that the World Health Organization colluded with China to suppress the truth about COVID-19, stealing vital time from the global community to prepare for the virus. The WHO denied the accusations.
President Donald Trump has also publicly blamed China for the pandemic.