A senior cybersecurity delegate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated Thursday that foreign authorities hackers have broken into firms conducting research into remedies for COVID-19, the respiratory illness brought on by the coronavirus.
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz told members in an online panel dialogue hosted by the Aspen Institute that the bureau had recently seen state-supported hackers poking around a series of healthcare and research establishments.
“We have seen spying activity, and some intrusions, into some of these establishments, especially those that have publicly claimed themselves as working on COVID-related analysis,” she stated.
Ugoretz stated it made sense for institutions working on promising remedies or a potential vaccine to tout their work publicly. However, she said, “The sad part is that it makes them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what they’re doing and perhaps even stealing proprietary information that those establishments have.”
Ugoretz stated that state-backed hackers had often focused biopharmaceutical industry; however, it stated: “it’s heightened during this disaster.” She didn’t identify specific nations or identify targeted organizations.
The FBI refused to remark. A spokesperson for the Director of National Intelligence had no immediate remark.