Intelligence service says computer systems have been repeatedly attacked in the health and pharmaceutical sectors
Chinese hackers have stolen information from Spanish research centers working on a Covid-19 vaccine , according to sources familiar with the situation.
The cyberattacks were conducted against Spain and several other countries competing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, said Paz Esteban, the head of Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI).
The CNI director said that “sensitive sectors such as health and pharmaceutics” had been targeted, and that there has been “a particularly virulent campaign, and not just in Spain, against laboratories working on a vaccine for Covid-19 .”
Most of these attacks came from China and Russia, according to sources consulted by this newspaper. In many cases they originated in state agencies, but there were also universities and criminal organizations seeking to cash in on the stolen information.
The cyberattack against Spanish research labs came from China, according to these sources, who declined to reveal the nature or relevance of the stolen information.
In July of this
year, a US federal court announced an indictment charging two Chinese
nationals, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, with conducting a hacking campaign for
over a decade against hundreds of high-tech companies, governments, non-profit
groups and human rights activists in the United States, Australia, Belgium,
Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Britain and Spain.
Researchers at Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) working on experimental Covid-19 vaccines were summoned to a meeting before the summer and told to take measures against potential data theft, according to two people who attended the meeting. But the heads of six Spanish teams working on vaccine prototypes said they were not aware of any data theft from their computer systems.
There are around
10 ongoing vaccine projects in Spain. The most advanced ones are headed by the
virologist Mariano Esteban of the CSIC’s National Biotechnology Center, and by
the doctor Felipe García, of Barcelona’s Clínic Hospital. Neither one has moved to human trials yet.