Foreign governments have attempted to hack into US healthcare institutions researching coronavirus and vaccines for it, a senior FBI official said Thursday.
“We have certainly seen reconnaissance activity and some intrusions into some of those institutions — especially those that have publicly identified themselves as working on Covid-related research,” Tonya Ugoretz, the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, said at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute.
The attempted cyberattacks are in line with efforts by nation state-backed hackers to steal corporate secrets and other research even outside times of crisis, but the activity has been heightened during the pandemic, Ugoretz said.
“There are certainly good reasons for those institutions to tout the work that they’re doing and educate the public on the work that they’re doing. The sad flip side is that it kind of makes them a mark for other nation states that are interested in learning details about what exactly they are doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have,” she said.
Law enforcement has recorded significant increases in the number of other reported cybercrime as many Americans have shifted their lifestyle online amid nationwide stay-at-home orders, and the FBI has warned that government-issued stimulus checks will prove a fruitful mark for online thieves.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, the FBI’s online tip line for cyber crime, has seen a surge in reported incidents — marking 3,000 to 4,000 complaints per day in recent months, up from typical levels of 1,000 per day, Ugoretz said.