The Trump administration has collected evidence that Chinese and Iranian hackers are targeting American healthcare firms and universities, hindering coronavirus vaccine research in the process, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The hackers have the capability to “irreversibly harm” American healthcare facilities, according to U.S. officials. Cyber attacks by Chinese and Iranian hackers have already damaged coronavirus vaccine research, although officials are still trying to assess whether the damage was intentional or collateral.
“It is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to know what motivates such malfeasance, but any such activity carries with it the risk of triggering accidental, disruptive effects,” a senior administration official told the Journal.
Some within the Trump administration may come to view such cyber attacks as acts of war, a major change in the perception of cyber attacks.
The U.S. on Wednesday will release a public warning that China is attempting to hack into American coronavirus vaccine research. A draft of the warning accuses China of seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.”
The coronavirus has infected over 4 million people worldwide since the start of the pandemic, and nations are racing to find potential treatments and vaccines. Nations that develop and produce a vaccine will have enormous geopolitical leverage, as the pathogen has shuttered much of the world economy.