Industry-Sponsored Research Week

FBI warns that China is targeting COVID-19 research for cybertheft


By David Schwartz
Published: May 18th, 2020

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an announcement last week warning of cyber threats to COVID-19-related research. The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. research organizations and their COVID-19 research by China-affiliated cyber actors.

According to the Bureau, “these actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research. The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”

The FBI and CISA are urging research organizations to maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices to prevent unauthorized review or theft of COVID-19-related material. The agencies issued the following recommendations:

  • Assume that press attention affiliating your organization with COVID-19-related research will lead to increased interest and cyber activity.
  • Patch all systems for critical vulnerabilities, prioritizing timely patching for known vulnerabilities of internet-connected servers and software processing internet data.
  • Actively scan web applications for unauthorized access, modification, or anomalous activities.
  • Improve credential requirements and require multi-factor authentication.
  • Identify and suspend access of users exhibiting unusual activity.

Additional assistance and guidance is available at cisa.gov/coronavirus. Source: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/peoples-republic-of-china-prc-targeting-of-covid-19-research-organizations

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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