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Monday, July 15, 2024

Chinese hackers stealing coronavirus vaccine research: UK spy agency

The head of Britain’s spy agency GCHQ said that hostile states have tried to hack into and steal research being conducted on a vaccine for the coronavirus in the UK. Many believe that he was referring to China, as the FBI has also accused China for the same in the past.

The head of Britain’s spy agency GCHQ said Thursday that hackers from hostile states were trying to steal secret coronavirus vaccine research.

GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming said the hackers were targeting the UK’s health infrastructure and research labs.

UK believes Chinese hackers stealing coronavirus vaccine research

“We do know that, whether it’s states or criminals, they are going after things which are sensitive to us,” Fleming said. “So it’s a high priority for us to protect the health sector, particularly the race to acquire a vaccine.”

The heads of GCHQ, the UK’s signal intelligence agency, rarely give interviews. This one was given to the Cheltenham Science Festival.

The hackers were “looking for pretty basic vulnerabilities,” including “lures to get people to click on the wrong thing…where people aren’t backing up properly, or where they’ve got basic passwords and so on.”

Though Fleming did not mention China by name, the Guardian reported that sources said China was often involved.

“For the UK, we see China as an intelligence adversary. We see them as an economic partner. We work with them in some areas, we compete with them in others, and in still others, we call out their behaviors when we don’t think they align with what we expect to see or with our values,” he said.

FBI also blames Chinese hackers for stealing coronavirus vaccine research

There seems to be widespread suspicion that Chinese hackers are stealing the coronavirus vaccine research from other countries.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation and cybersecurity experts believe Chinese hackers are trying to steal research on developing a vaccine against coronavirus, two newspapers reported in May.

Read more: FBI blames China for hacking coronavirus vaccine research 

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are planning to release a warning about the Chinese hacking as governments and private firms race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported.

The hackers are also targeting information and intellectual property on treatments and testing for COVID-19.

Organisations researching the disease were warned of “likely targeting and network compromise by the People´s Republic of China,” a statement from the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said. “These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research,” they said.

“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nations response to COVID-19,” they said. The two organisations gave no evidence or examples of their allegation against Beijing. But they urged “all organisations conducting research in these areas to maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices to prevent surreptitious review or theft of COVID-19-related material.”

Conspiracy theory about coronavirus being made in Chinese lab 

A former head of the UK’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said yesterday he believed the coronavirus was manmade and escaped from a Chinese lab by accident.

Dearlove ran the agency in the run-up to the Iraq War, between 1999 and 2004. He told the Daily Telegraph that he had seen “very important” research where scientists claimed to have identified “inserted sections placed on the Sars-CoV-2 Spike surface” that binds to human cells and were “significantly different from any Sars we have studied.”

“I do not think that this started as an accident,” he said. “It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership”.

The research in question has been widely dismissed by both scientists and security officials alike and was by Professor Angus Dalgleish, who works at St George’s Hospital at the University of London and is a former candidate for UKIP, a right-wing British party.British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said the government had seen “no evidence” to suggest the virus had started in a lab.The theory is popular with US President Donald Trump, however.

President Donald Trump has said that the US is looking into reports that the novel coronavirus “escaped” from a virology laboratory in China’s Wuhan city.

Read more: Virus may have escaped from Wuhan lab

The US has announced that it has been conducting a full-scale investigation into whether the deadly virus “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The United States has now brought the allegations into the mainstream, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying US officials are doing a “full investigation” into how the virus “got out into the world”.

Coronavirus cure without vaccine?

A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the coronavirus pandemic to a halt.

A drug being tested by scientists at China’s prestigious Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the virus, researchers say.

Read more: Chinese lab claims cure for coronavirus without vaccine

Sunney Xie, director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP that the drug has been successful at the animal testing stage.

“When we injected neutralising antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” said Xie.

The drug uses neutralizing antibodies — produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells — which Xie’s team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients.

A study on the team’s research, published Sunday in the scientific journal Cell, suggests that using the antibodies provides a potential “cure” for the disease and shortens recovery time.

If this drug truly cures the disease, then there seems to be no reason why Chinese hackers would steal coronavirus vaccine research from other countries.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk