U.S. officials accused China on Tuesday of sponsoring criminal hackers who are targeting biotech firms around the world working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments, as the FBI said the Chinese government was acting like “an organized criminal syndicate.”
In an indictment unsealed in Spokane, Wash., the Justice Department charged two former engineering students with hacking companies engaged in high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and gaming software development, and with targeting dissidents, clergy and human rights activists in the United States, China and Hong Kong.
“China steals intellectual property and research which bolsters its economy, and then they use that illicit gain as a weapon to silence any country that would dare challenge their illegal actions,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said. “This type of economic coercion is not what we expect from a trusted world leader. It is what we expect from an organized criminal syndicate.”
The defendants hacked for their own profit but also for the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), a civilian spy agency responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and domestic political security, the indictment says. They were aided in that effort by an MSS officer, authorities charge.