Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks
Lawmakers in the House and Senate requested briefings from key federal agencies this week around a recent alert that Chinese hackers are targeting U.S. research groups involved in developing vaccines and treatments for the COVID-19 virus.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a joint alert earlier this month warning that Chinese government-backed hackers had been attempting to “illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.”
House request: Republican members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, including ranking member Frank Lucas (Okla.), sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CISA Director Christopher Krebs on Friday asking for a briefing on the threat.
The members described the alert as “extremely concerning” but “not surprising” given past Chinese intellectual property theft issues.
“We applaud your work in notifying the public to raise awareness of these threats and appreciate the resources and guidance you are providing to institutions that may be targeted,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “Given the critical nature of the COVID-19 research being conducted at U.S. institutions, it is imperative they take the proper steps to secure their networks and take advantage of the resources your agencies have without delay.”
The members requested that the agencies provide a briefing on the threat to members and staff no later than June 22.
Senate weighs in: The request for a briefing was made two days after a group of Senate Judiciary Committee members sent a similar request to the agencies.
Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked that both Wray and Krebs brief their staff in a classified setting on the threat posed to U.S. research groups by June 20. The senators asked for details on what, if any, resources the agencies needed to continue combating state-sponsored hacking.