May 13, 2020 - World

FBI sounds alarm over Chinese attempts to steal coronavirus research

FBI Director Christopher Wray in February. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a joint alert on Wednesday warning that actors affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party are targeting U.S. institutions for data and intellectual property related to coronavirus research.

Why it matters: The FBI said it is investigating potential data breaches and warned that research theft may jeopardize "the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options" for the coronavirus.

The FBI and CISA recommended that research institutions "patch all systems for critical vulnerabilities, prioritizing timely patching for known vulnerabilities of internet-connected servers and software processing internet data."

  • The agencies pressed institutions to scan for unauthorized access, modification or anomalous activities and to improve internal credential requirements to gain access to research.
  • They also cautioned that increased media attention about virus research done by a specific organization will lead to increased "cyber activity."

The big picture: Attempts by the Chinese government to steal intellectual property are not new. Cybersecurity experts and U.S. officials said last year that Chinese hackers targeted more than two dozen universities to steal information about maritime technology developed for military use, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed this week that China opposed cyberattacks of all forms, stating: "It is immoral for anyone to engage in rumor-mongering without presenting any evidence.

The bottom line: The warning from the FBI and CISA comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, as Beijing has reportedly been stalling international efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, according to the WSJ.

Go deeper: As the U.S. and China fight, their scientists collaborate

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.

Minneapolis will ban police chokeholds following George Floyd's death

A memorial for George Floyd at the site of his death in Minneapolis. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minneapolis has agreed to ban the use of police chokeholds and will require nearby officers to act to stop them in the wake of George Floyd's death, AP reports.

Why it matters: The agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has launched an investigation into Floyd's death while in police custody, will be enforceable in court.