US says Chinese hackers targeted Covid-19 trade secrets

The US has accused two Chinese citizens of trying to uncover security weaknesses at American firms doing coronavirus research as part of a wider hacking scheme aimed at stealing trade secrets.

In an indictment unsealed on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice claimed the alleged hackers had worked with an officer with China’s Ministry of State Security, the country’s intelligence service.

US officials have repeatedly accused China of attempting to steal coronavirus-related research.

“Having been caught covering up the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing is desperate for a public relations coup, and may hope that it will be able to claim credit for any medical breakthroughs,” William Barr, the US attorney-general, said last week.

The two alleged hackers were also accused of targeting defence contractors and stealing data relating to military satellite programmes and other highly sensitive military projects, according to court filings.

Last week, UK, US and Canadian authorities accused hackers linked to Russia of also attempting to steal coronavirus-related research.