Hackers Are Targeting Coronavirus Research

The UK and US have warned that state-backed cyber attackers are trying to steal data from universities, pharmaceuticals and research institutes involved in coronavirus vaccine research. 

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and its US counterpart, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), urged workers in healthcare and medical research to change easy-to-guess passwords. China is among hostile states believed to be trying to steal secrets during pandemic.

In May, the NCSC created the Suspicious Email Reporting Service after seeing an increase in coronavirus-related email scams. In its first week, the service received more than 25,000 reports, resulting in 395 phishing sites being taken down.
Now Britain’s intelligence agencies are working urgently to prevent hackers from hostile states, including China, trying to steal the secrets of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The head of GCHQ has said that hackers, including those from hostile states, were targeting the UK’s health infrastructure and some of its world-leading research labs, often by using simple techniques.

The chief of GCHQ did not directly name China or any other country as being behind the cyber-attacks on the NHS and British research labs, but sources indicated that Beijing was often believed to be involved.

Britain’s intelligence agencies have been pressing for both a reassessment of the UK’s relationship with Beijing, arguing that Britain needs to reduce its dependence on Chinese technology and medical supplies, and a more realistic appreciation of the intelligence threat

Others, however, have gone further, claiming that coronavirus may have leaked from a high-security disease research lab in Wuhan, and that, in contrast to the prevailing research, it may be human made. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was in charge of the British MI6 spy agency in the run up to the Iraq war, told reporters he had seen “very important” research suggesting that “inserted sections” had been placed on the structures of the virus that bind it to human cells.

British government sources reacted with dismay to Dearlove’s statements, the latest in a campaign though to be aimed at justifying a laboratory leak theory promoted by US president Trump. They are reported as saying that they see no evidence to justify the claim by the former MI6 boss.

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