“It is absolutely unacceptable for Chinese government affiliated hackers to attempt to steal or disrupt important research from companies and institutions who are developing essential diagnostics, cures, and treatments.” – Senators’ letter
Yesterday, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) sent a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher Krebs regarding a notice issued last week by their agencies alerting American companies and research institutions about attempted attacks by hackers affiliated with the Chinese government. According to the notice, these hackers “have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable …. (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.”
Citing the “alarming” notice, the senators explained that the attempted attacks “jeopardized the delivery of ‘secure, effective, and efficient treatment option[s].’” They further noted that any actions that affect the development of treatment options, including the theft of intellectual property, is threat to our “health, economic recovery, and national security” and is “absolutely unacceptable”:
While any government sponsored hacking of American companies is a cause for concern, it is especially troublesome that the Chinese government would target companies developing vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus…. It is absolutely unacceptable for Chinese government affiliated hackers to attempt to steal or disrupt important research from companies and institutions who are developing essential diagnostics, cures, and treatments.
The senators reiterated a request made in the notice “for any American companies or research institutions developing COVID-19 related intellectual property to take advantage of resources offered by CISA to prevent potential cyber intrusions” and additionally expressed their hope that “any company or institution that believes it is or was a target will report the intrusion to the FBI without delay.”
The letter asked that the FBI and CISA answer the following three questions by June 20, 2020:
- What additional statutory tools or authorities do your agencies require to more effectively combat state-sponsored hacking of American companies?
- What additional financial resources or appropriations do you require in order to prevent and investigate further attempted thefts and intrusions?
- What steps are your agencies taking—besides the recently published notice—to inform American companies or research institutions about the threats posed by Chinese hackers? In addition, what steps are you taking to help companies and research institutions increase their cybersecurity and prevent further intrusions?”
In conclusion, the senators expressed confidence in the FBI and CISA and noted their willingness to assist the agencies: “Please know that as you continue to combat state sponsored hacking and the theft of American intellectual property we stand ready and willing to assist you.”
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