Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers
The top Republicans on three House committees urged President Trump Monday to crack down on efforts by Chinese government-backed hackers to target and steal health data and research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Financial Service Committee ranking member Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) detailed their concerns in a letter, raising the idea of levying sanctions against the hacking efforts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“For many years, the PRC has perpetrated cyber-attacks on Americans, our financial institutions, and even the U.S. government itself,” the GOP members wrote. “The response to this orchestrated malicious activity was always muted, however, with hopes that leniency toward PRC aggression would foster greater economic cooperation and deeper diplomatic ties.”
The Republican leaders noted that the previous strategy had the “opposite effect” of discouraging malicious Chinese cyber activity, instead allowing Beijing “to proceed down another path, which threatens U.S. and global security.”
The letter was sent after the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned in May that Chinese government-backed hackers were targeting U.S. groups working on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.
The agencies warned that the hackers had been “observed attempting to identify and 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,” noting that these actions could endanger the ability to fight the virus.
Federal agencies in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada teamed up last week to warn that Russian hackers were also targeting groups tied to COVID-19 research.
The Republican lawmakers pointed to this warning in calling on Trump to take action, arguing in favor of the Treasury Department levying sanctions on Chinese-backed hackers that target Americans through cyberattacks.