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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

Aug 18, 2020 - World

Trade is now the relative bright spot in U.S.-China relations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Trade is the last major area where the U.S. is still relying on traditional diplomacy to work through problems with China.

Why it matters: U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, as both sides have taken an increasingly harder line over Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea and other issues. The desire to keep the trade deal alive seems to be keeping the relationship from unraveling entirely.

Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

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