Hackers backed by the Chinese government attempted to steal coronavirus vaccination data from US-based biotech company, Moderna Inc., a U.S. security official tracking Chinese hacking revealed in an exclusive Reuters report Friday.
China pushed back on this accusation and said, “Such allegations are pure slander.”
“Recently so-called sources from the US government have been accusing China of hacking to steal technology and data of U.S. vaccine research, but there has been no evidence whatsoever,” Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a press conference Friday.
Webin pointed to the fact that the intelligence sources were all anonymous.
“The international community can see through such vilifying ploys,” he said.
The spokesman said that China in fact is worried about potential hacking from foreign actors attempting to steal their data in the race to find a vaccination for the coronavirus.
“As we've repeatedly said, China is leading the world in COVID-19 vaccine research and development,” Webin told reporters Friday. “We don't need to get ahead by theft and we have never done that.”
The Justice Department (DOJ) indicted two Chinese nationals working for the Chinese intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), last week for alleged hacking U.S. and international systems.
“The hackers stole terabytes of data which comprised a sophisticated and prolific threat to U.S. networks,” the DOJ said in a statement on July 21.
“The defendants probed for vulnerabilities in computer networks of companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatments," the DOJ added.
According to the FBI, the hackers targeted vulnerabilities, placed malicious “web shell programs” and credential stealing software that allowed them to access victims computers remotely.
The suspects targeted eight victims affiliated with “technology designs, manufacturing processes, test mechanisms and results, source code, and pharmaceutical chemical structures.”
The DOJ did not disclose the names of the victims or companies the hackers targeted.
But Moderna, who reportedly announced their COVID-19 vaccine candidacy in January, were contacted by the FBI and made aware of the suspected hacking, related to the indictment last week, according to Reuter’s report.
Moderna could not be immediately reached for comment.
The U.S. government has reportedly given Moderna nearly half a billion in funding to support their coronavirus research, making them one of the leading contenders in the U.S. and globally in finding a vaccine for the virus that has infected over 17 million and killed more than 677,000 people.
Moderna is expected to launch a clinical trial this month on up to 30,000 people.
Webin asked foreign governments to stop “smearing China with rumors” Friday. He then requested that the media community stop publishing information from anonymous sources that are “groundless.”