Chinese government linked hackers targeted Covid vaccine firm Moderna

Beijing: Chinese government linked hackers targeted biotech company Moderna Inc, a leading U.S- based coronavirus vaccine research developer, earlier this year in a bid to steal valuable data, according to a U.S. security official tracking Chinese hacking activity.

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Last week, the U.S Justice Department made public an indictment of two Chinese nationals accused of spying on the United States, including three unnamed U.S. based targets involved in medical research to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The indictment states the Chinese hackers “conducted reconnaissance” against the computer network of a Massachusetts biotech firm known to be working on a coronavirus vaccine in January.

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Moderna, which is based in Massachusetts and announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in January, confirmed to Reuters that the company had been in contact with the FBI and was made aware of the suspected “information reconnaissance activities” by the hacking group mentioned in last week’s indictment.

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Reconnaissance activities can include a wide range of actions, including probing public websites for vulnerabilities to scouting out important accounts after entering a network, cyber security experts say.

“Moderna remains highly vigilant to potential cyber security threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with outside authorities to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information,” spokesman Ray Jordan said, declining to provide further detail.

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The U.S. security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined to disclose the identities of companies targeted by Chinese hackers.

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