National security official: Chinese target U.S. hospitals, research centers seeking COVID-19 vaccine

Some U.S. officials believe China is seeking data on the labs working to discover a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some U.S. officials believe China is seeking data on the labs working to discover a COVID-19 vaccine.

Assistant attorney general for national security John C. Demers spoke at a virtual business conference April 23, discussing how the Chinese are targeting hospitals and research labs in the United States as the the nation works to develop a vaccine for the SARS CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

After his speech, Demers said that it was a logical conclusion that the Chinese government is targeting the U.S., based on their efforts to steal trade secrets and technology across multiple industries in the U.S. 

“There is nothing more valuable today than biomedical research relating to vaccines or treatments for coronavirus,” Demers said.  “We are very attuned to increased cyber intrusions into medical centers, research centers, universities – anybody that is doing research in this area.”

Demers isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. According to Epoch Times, on April 16, Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI spoke of an increase in hacking during a webinar hosted by the Aspen Institute.

“We certainly have seen reconnaissance activity, and some intrusions, into some of those institutions, especially those that have publicly identified themselves as working on COVID-related research,” said Ugoretz.

Demers noted that the Chinese have been involved in growing numbers of trade secret and economic espionage cases, typically recruiting company insiders to get the information. They start by identifying technology they want then target employees who work in companies that develop that technology, Demers said.  Ten Chinese individuals were indicted for allegedly trying to steal the information related to making turbo fan engines in October 2018.

But they don’t stop at technology and trade secrets. They also go after personal data.

“All personal data is very useful to develop artificial intelligence tools and one of the areas in—which they [China] are definitely trying to compete very strongly with U.S. companies, European companies—is the development of artificial intelligence. You need big data to own your algorithms,” Demers said.


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