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.

Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

AOC: "Extremely important" that Biden offer Bernie Sanders a Cabinet position

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.

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