According to an official from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Thursday, April 16, foreign government-backed hackers have broken into vaccine research facilities developing cures for the COVID-19 disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus.
At an online panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit think tank founded in 1949, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz told participants that the FBI had witnessed state-backed hackers poking around several healthcare and research institutions. She said that this was especially apparent among those who have “publicly identified themselves as working on COVID-related research.” While she stated that foreign governments do target the biopharmaceutical industry in general, the aggression has increased since the pandemic outbreak.
Ugoretz acknowledged that while it “makes sense” for the companies working on the vaccine to publicize their work, it ultimately makes them a target to such cyberattacks from those who are “…interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have.”
None of the foreign countries were mentioned. To date, there are over two million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with the deadly virus claiming the lives of over 145,000 people worldwide.