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.
Niger Delta Militants Threaten To Attack Lagos, Abuja
Niger Delta militants under the aegis of Supreme Egbesu Liberation Fighters have threatened to destroy infrastructure in Lagos State and Abuja .
In a video posted on Tuesday by AIT , members of the group were seen wearing masks and putting on a military uniform .
One of them , who read a statement on behalf of the group , lamented poor implementation of the amnesty programme in the region, saying , “ there are no schools , no potable water , no light , no hospital and access roads for our people to enjoy till date” .
He said , “ Over the years, the Niger Delta people have made frantic efforts to create an enabling environment but to our great dismay, the Nigerian government over the years has decided to handle the issues of the Niger Delta with kid gloves .
“ They have betrayed the struggle and have left the people to their fate ,” a member of the group read from a statement .
“ Rather, what is visible is the presence of military gunboat and the numerous military personnel dispersed to the Niger Delta who are killing, raping , and maiming the innocent people of the region.
“ Look at the security surveillance contract taking place in our region through the federal government these agencies in place have decided to shortchange our people . Now in our territorial waters , it is an Israeli company that is providing waterway security which we have competent hands with expert knowledge to manage.
“ Don ’t worry, because we are coming to destroy all your infrastructure in Abuja and Lagos . As a group committed to giving total liberation to our people , we will destroy the oil facilities both onshore and offshore in no distant time , we will be seen to be crippling the Nigerian economy. ”
Ogun To Arrest Illegal Occupants Of Forest Reserve
The Ogun State government said it would soon start combing its forest reserve to arrest and prosecute illegal occupants .
The State Commissioner for Forestry , Tunji Akinosi , said this while responding to questions from journalists in Abeokuta , the state capital.
Akinosi said the government had written letters to the traditional rulers in the areas asking them to tell the illegal occupants to leave or be arrested .
He said, “ We have asked those that are illegally occupying our lands to leave , and now we are moving to the second stage of combing the areas ourselves and arresting those that are still residents in the reserve. ”
The Commissioner, while speaking on the depleted condition of the forest reserve, said, “ In the last 18 months , this administration has taken the bull by the horn in getting the Imeko and Aworo Forest Reserves back and running .
“ Unfortunately , the depletion did not start right now , it has been there and government this year alone had met twice with the Iledotun project coordinators and had taken 108 ,000 hectares of the forest reserve in Imeko and Aworo for regeneration .
“ We call it LND project , Land Degradation Neutrality project where you bring people of diverse nations to regenerate that place , and I am sure that between now and the next few months , you will see the work that would start there in reclaiming all the land that is there .”
Police Misconduct Responsible For #EndSARS Protests —PSC
The Chairman , Police Service Commission , Musiliu Smith , has attributed the # EndSARS protests to the misconduct of officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
Smith , a former Inspector -General of Police , decried the level of misconduct in the police force saying his office was always inundated with complaints from Nigerians .
The PSC chairman stated this at a retreat with the IG and his police management team , in Abuja on Tuesday .
Smith ’s statement contradicted claims by the Minister of Information and Culture , Lai Mohammed that the October protests were instigated by political and religious leaders .
He also said the demonstrations which were subsequently hijacked by hoodlums leading to widespread violence and looting , were aimed at overthrowing the Federal Government .
But puncturing these claims in his first public comment on the incident , the retired IG said, “ We are always having a lot of complaints from the members of the public against police officers. I believe that # EndSARS resulted from serious misconduct of some of our personnel .
“ I want to advise that we review the arrangements we are making for investigating such cases . Let ’s ensure that investigations are thoroughly conducted and whoever is the police officer that has been indicted will be punished according to the law . If we are doing that , some of the public complaints will go down . ”
Smith , who had been at loggerheads with the police leadership on the recruitment of police constables , also admonished IG Mohammed Adamu to work closely with the commission on the recruitment of credible Nigerians into the force.
Smith added that the number of court cases against the police was alarming , stressing that the force may not be able to pay the damages awarded against it .
In his remarks earlier, the IGP noted that the retreat was to bridge the communication gap and engender a better understanding and working relationship between the force and the police service commission .
The Attorney – General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , Abubukar Malami , who also spoke at the retreat, harped on the need for a harmonious working relationship among all the agencies of the government .