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China denies hacking US vaccine lab

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CHINA has rejected charges that hackers linked to its government targeted biotech firm ModernaInc, a leading US-based coronavirus vaccine research developer, to steal data.

  The Asian giant in a statement through the spokesperson of the foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, said  the accusations are baseless and without evidence; adding that China does not need to and does not engage in technology theft.

  The Chinese Embassy in Washington while referring the media to recent Chinese Foreign Ministry’s comment that said: “China has long been a major victim of cyber thefts and attacks”  also made it clear that its officials firmly oppose and fight such activities.

  A US security anonymous official tracking China’s hacking activities was reported to have disclosed to the media plans by the Chinese government to hack data in the USA with Moderna being their primary target.

  Last week, the US Justice Department announced indictment of two Chinese nationals accused of spying on the United States, including three unnamed US-based targets involved in medical research to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

  The indictment states that the Chinese hackers “conducted reconnaissance” against the computer network of a Massachusetts biotech firm known to be working on a coronavirus vaccine in January.

  Moderna, which is based in Massachusetts, announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in January, confirmed to the media 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.

  According to experts, 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,

  “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,” the company’s spokesman, Ray Jordan said,

Moderna’s vaccine candidate is one of the earliest and biggest bets by the Trump’s administration policy to fight the pandemic.

  The federal government is supporting the development of the company’s vaccine with nearly half a billion dollars and helping Moderna launch a clinical trial of up to 30,000 people, beginning this month.

  It will be recalled that China is also in the race to develop a vaccine, bringing together its state, military and private sectors to combat a disease that has killed over 660,000 people worldwide.

A July 7 indictment released last week alleges that the two Chinese hackers, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, conducted a decade-long hacking spree that most recently included the targeting of COVID-19 medical research groups.

  Prosecutors said,  Li and Dong acted as contractors for China’s Ministry of State Security, a state intelligence agency. Messages left with several accounts registered under Li’s digital alias, oro0lxy, were not returned. Contact details for Dong were not available.

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