U.S. federal authorities on Wednesday warned that China-linked hackers were targeting U.S. research organisations to steal data on vaccines and treatments for the new coronavirus.
The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said health care, pharmaceutical and research institutions working on a pandemic response should all be aware they were the prime targets of this activity.
The agencies said that the institutions were to take the necessary steps to protect their systems.
“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,’’ the agencies said.
The potential theft of this information “jeopardises the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”
According to the advisory, organisations should partner with CISA to help protect their efforts, while those suspecting suspicious activity should alert the FBI.
“More details on the threat will be released in the coming days,’’ the agencies said.
The warning is the latest in a series of efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to blame China for being the source of the pandemic and exploiting its aftermath.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently accused Beijing of being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and the economic downturn.
Pompeo has also continued to pursue a theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory, in spite of presenting no evidence.