Chinese vaccine research institutes subject to frequent cyberattacks, no need to ‘steal’ from others: political advisor
New area of confrontation, geopolitical rivalry
Published: Mar 07, 2021 10:33 PM
Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: VCG

Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: VCG

During the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, China's healthcare system, vaccine research institutions and research institutes were subject to frequent cyberattacks, and reports that claimed Chinese hackers launched cyberattacks typically showed that "a thief was crying 'stop thief'," said a Chinese political advisor. 

Xiao Xinguang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and also the chief software architect of leading anti-virus company Antiy Labs, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Sunday that cyberspace has become an area of confrontation and geopolitical competition among major countries - and cyberspace risks, together with traditional security threats, can form a chain reaction.

For example, during the fight against the epidemic, China's health and medical system, vaccine research institutions, scientific research institutes and others were subject to frequent cyberattacks, and many important pieces of information or scientific research results were stolen. Moreover, some countries have been posing cyberspace threats in border conflicts in an attempt to steal political, economic, military, scientific and technological information from China, Xiao revealed. 

Some superpower has never stopped its ambition to suppress China and infringe upon China's development interests in the name of cybersecurity, he noted.

In the latest case, Reuters reported that a Chinese hacking group called APT-10, or Stone Panda, had identified gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure and supply chain software of Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker. But it did not spell out a clear connection between the so-called hacker group and the Chinese government.

The Chinese Embassy in India, China's Foreign Ministry and the country's cybersecurity insiders refuted the report, slamming such groundless allegations as ill-intended slander and stressing that China leads in vaccine research and development, and there is no need for China to rely on "stealing" to obtain vaccines.

Similar accusations can also be seen in other media reports. 

Western countries have long hyped the issue of cybersecurity in their strategic motivation to contain China's development, Xiao said, citing the solarium plan launched by the US last year.

In fact, the plan aims to promote a Cold War mentality - either friend or enemy in cyberspace - and tries to narrow the living space of China and other countries. Meanwhile, the plan aims to suppress Chinese enterprises and Chinese products in order to reduce international trust in Chinese information and communication products and to protect American oligopoly enterprises, products and services, Xiao said. "So-called Chinese hackers' attacks were purely showing 'a thief crying stop thief'."

According to Xiao, an organization backed by the Indian government was exposed by international security companies in early 2013. Xiao's lab also disclosed cyberattacks carried out by India against two Chinese universities in 2014. Later, the lab named the attack group "White Elephant." In 2016, the lab targeted an Indian person based on threat intelligence and continuous correlation analysis.

Through continuous tracking analysis, Xiao's lab found that cyberattacks launched by India targeted neighboring countries, especially China and Pakistan, including government departments, universities, research institutes and even enthusiasts active on military forums.  

China's largest vaccine producer Sinopharm on Sunday published an article on its official WeChat account, stressing the building of a cybersecurity prevention and control system, guarding the bottom line, and resolutely winning the battle of cybersecurity in epidemic prevention and control.

Sinopharm is the only enterprise directly managed by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council that focuses on life and health. More than 3,400 people attended the conference, including members of the group's leading management and head of the cybersecurity department, which indicates the importance they attached to the conference. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, China has been taking the lead on vaccine development and has approved four types of domestic vaccines so far. Facts have proven that China has no need to "steal" vaccines via cyberattacks, just as Chinese officials and cybersecurity experts said. 

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Zhou Hongyi, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC and founder and chairman of internet security company 360, revealed that the company has detected at least 40 high-level overseas hacker organizations and more than 2,700 advanced cyberattacks against China in the past few years.

Previously, the company had discovered a series of attacks against China's aerospace sector, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry and large internet companies by a hacking organization affiliated with the CIA for over a decade.