Chinese hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna: Report

Shubham Sharma

Chinese hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna: Report

01 Aug 2020: Chinese hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna: Report

Last week, the US Justice Department charged two China-linked hackers, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, with stealing valuable data from organizations in the US and around the world.

Now, in a major revelation, Reuters has confirmed that one of the organizations targeted by the duo was Moderna Therapeutics, the biotech firm leading the COVID-19 vaccine race.

Here's more about it.

Indictment: Charges of spying on Massachusetts-based biotech firm

In the DoJ indictment, the Chinese hackers were accused of spying on three US-based firms involved in medical research to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.

The department did not name the organizations in question but said one of them was a Massachusetts-based biotech firm developing a vaccine for the disease.

The hackers conducted "information reconnaissance activities" against this firm, DoJ added.

Confirmation: Moderna was this firm, US official confirmed

Given that Moderna is based in Massachusetts and leading in the COVID-19 vaccine race, Reuters got in touch with a US security official involved in the tracking of Chinese hacking attempts.

That official, who requested not to be identified in the report, confirmed that, it was indeed Moderna that was attacked by the two Chinese hackers.

Acknowledgement: The company also acknowledged the attack

Following the official's confirmation, Moderna also acknowledged that its computer network was targeted by the hackers in the DoJ indictment.

The company said it had been working with the FBI in connection to the matter but denied sharing anything else about the hacking attempt, including whether any information was stolen.

To note, Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is already in the final phase of human trials.

Fact: "Moderna remains highly vigilant to potential cybersecurity threats"

"Moderna remains highly vigilant to potential cybersecurity threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services and good working relationships with outside authorities to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information," Moderna's spokesperson said in a statement.

Response: Meanwhile, China has denied any involvement

China has rebuffed the accusations, saying that it has nothing to do with the hacking attempt against Moderna.

At a press briefing, the nation's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the accusations leveled against his country are baseless, without evidence, and it does not need to and does not engage in theft of technology.

China is already leading in vaccine development, he added.

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