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China Trying To Steal COVID-19 Vaccine Research ― US FBI

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United States authorities warned Wednesday that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal COVID-19 (coronavirus) data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington’s war with Beijing over the pandemic.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organisations researching COVID-19 were at risk of “targeting and network compromise by the People’s Republic of China.”

They warned that Chinese government-affiliated cyber actors and others were attempting to obtain “valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.”

“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,” they said.

The two organizations gave no evidence or examples to support the allegation.

But the warning added to the growing battle between the superpowers over the outbreak that began in China and has killed at least 293,000 worldwide, and more than 83,000 in the United States.

President Donald Trump has accused China of hiding the origins of the virus and not cooperating with the United States and other countries in efforts to research and fight the disease.

Asked on Monday about reports that the US believed Chinese hackers were targeting US vaccine research, Trump replied: “What else is new with China? What else is new? Tell me. I’m not happy with China.”

– Spies, academics targeted –

The warning Wednesday also underscored that Washington believes China has continued broad efforts to obtain US commercial and technology secrets by any means possible, under President Xi Jinping’s drive to make his country a technological leader this decade.

In February the US Justice Department indicted four Chinese army personnel suspected of hacking the massive database of credit rating agency Equifax, giving them the personal data of 145 million Americans.

The US recently also charged a number of academics with crimes relating to that alleged effort, both American and Chinese nationals.

On Monday the Department of Justice announced the arrest of University of Arkansas engineering professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang for hiding ties to the Chinese government and Chinese universities while he worked on projects funded by NASA.

The indictment said Ang was secretly part of the Xi-backed Thousand Talents program, which Washington says China uses to collect research from abroad.

Also on Monday Li Xiaojiang, a former professor at Emory University in Atlanta, admitted tax fraud in a case focused on his hidden earnings from China, also as a participant in the Thousand Talents program.

– Race for a vaccine –
Beijing has repeatedly denied the US accusations.

“We are leading the world in COVID-19 treatment and vaccine research. It is immoral to target China with rumors and slanders in the absence of any evidence,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday.

The FBI warning comes as dozens of companies, institutes and countries around the world are racing to develop vaccines to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Many more groups are researching treatments for infected patients. Currently there is no proven therapy.

An effective vaccine could allow countries to fully reopen and potentially earn millions of dollars for its creators.

Most expert believe it will take more than a year to get a vaccine fully approved, and much longer to produce enough of it for even a fraction of the people on the globe.

The warning about Chinese hackers added to a series of alerts and reports accusing government-backed cyber operators in Iran, North Korea, Russia and China of malicious activity related to the coronavirus pandemic, from pumping out false news to targeting workers and scientists.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre and CISA said jointly last week they had detected large-scale “password spraying” tactics — hackers trying to access accounts through commonly used passwords — aimed at healthcare bodies and medical research organizations.

[AFP]

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Reps Ask FG To Implement Pay-per-view Model For Satellite TV

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The house of representatives has asked the federal government to implement the pay-per-view model for satellite TV subscribers, to encourage “healthy competition” in the broadcast industry.

The lower legislative chamber passed the resolution on Wednesday, following the adoption of a report on the increment of tariffs by broadcast digital satellite service providers.

This was after Unyime Idem, chairman of the ad hoc committee, moved a motion that the report be considered.

“That the house do consider the report of the ad hoc committee on non-implementation of pay–as–you–go and sudden increment of tariffs plan by broadcast digital satellite service providers,” he said.

In March 2020, the house set up the ad hoc committee to probe complaints about high tariffs by broadcast digital satellite service providers.

At the investigative hearing in June 2020, the panel specifically tackled the Digital Satellite Television (DSTV), a South Africa-based company owned by MultiChoice, for high tariffs and restricting Nigerian customers to prepaid plans.

But during plenary session on Wednesday, the lower legislative chamber said the “visible absence of competitors in the industry was tacit approval of monopoly of the industry by the present operators”.

In their resolution, the lawmakers called for “expedited action on implementing the content of the National Broadcasting Code and the Nigeria information Policy of 2014 that would trigger healthy competition in the industry”.

“The entertainment industry has a wider spectrum with limitless opportunities for the teeming youths. The visible absence of competitors in the industry was tacit approval of monopoly of the industry by the present operators,” the house said.

“Timely application of these government regulatory intervention measures already articulated will revolutionise the
industry and meet the people’s yearnings on pay-as-you-go, pay-per-view and price reduction.

“Our extant laws that moderate operations in the industry is to be fine-tuned to meet the 21st century regulatory laws of the industry that is dynamic as the entertainment industry.

“The commission that has the power to license and regulate the activities of service providers must, as well, have the power to moderate in the protection of consumers. There is little or nothing a regulator can do if he is handicapped by laws that are not properly tailored to the needs of the society.”

The lawmakers added that “uncontrollable” market forces are responsible for the hike in the tariff.

“The recent increment of VAT by 2.5% by the Financial Amendment Act of 13th January, 2020, the fluctuating
foreign exchange rate in the country that affects the cost of content, broadcast equipment, experienced hire and technical infrastructure increase, increase in bouquets for a wider choice,
inflation on the cost of production and need to maintain workforce not throwing many young men and women who are gainfully employed by pay-tv into the labour market were some
necessary indices for price hike,” they added.

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FG To Regulate, Monetise Posting Of Police Officers As Escorts, Guards

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The federal executive council (FEC) on Wednesday approved the formation of the Special Police Services to regulate and monetise posting of officers as escorts and guards.

Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, said the new unit will formalise the deployment of police officers as escorts to VIPs and as guards to big corporations.

Speaking after the FEC meeting in Abuja, he said the approval was in the interest of transparency and accountability.

He said: “The minister of police affairs also had an important scheme which was approved at federal executive council meeting.

“It is the deployment of what they call Special Police Services. And this is about a new system that will formalise what has existed with us all the time.

“You know police provide escort and guard for big corporations, banks, and so on. Now, in the interest of transparency and accountability, the government is formalising this relationship. And there will be an introduction of tariffs and billing schemes. This will be using PPP (public private partnership) arrangement.

“The police projected the use of consultant that will help them to manage this. Part of the revenue will go to federal government. Part of it will go to the police. Part of it will go into police allowances. And part will go to consultants as their own fees.

“This is something that has been going on for many years. And it has happened virtually in all countries of the world. In our own case, it has remained largely, people will say, undocumented or non-formalised. Government is concerned about leakages in revenue and incomes which should be blocked.”

Shehu also said contracts worth N754,048,161 were approved for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for capital projects.

He said: “These are mainly for the supply of communications at the command and control centre. This is to enable EFCC comply with modern day investigative techniques, improve its operational efficiency, and support the administration of criminal justice system in the country.

“So, these are basically defensive and offensive cyber-security systems.”

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