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U.S Officials Warn of Increased Risk of IP Theft Involving COVID-19 Research

July 14, 2020

Posted in Uncategorized

U.S Officials Warn of Increased Risk of IP Theft Involving COVID-19 Research
COVID-19 has made many countries, corporations, and individuals desperate for technology and innovation

In a recent article by Greg Myre for NPR (link below), U.S. officials are concerned about the dangers of Intellectual Property (IP) theft. Companies should be on the alert to take extra precautions to safeguard their IP.

With many pharmaceutical makers, medical device companies, and universities working around the clock to develop vaccines and other equipment to combat COVID-19, those same companies may be vulnerable to IP theft.

IP Theft Can Take Many Forms and Many Years

IP theft can occur through many avenues, not only via hackers probing computer networks, but through compromised emails, disgruntled employees, theft of electronic devices, subcontractors’ weak security, and other security lapses.

US and Britain Issue Warnings

Both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre recently issued statements that hackers are “actively targeting organizations…that include healthcare bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organizations, and local government.”

Iran and China Face Scrutiny

A recent Reuters report stated that hackers linked to Iran had tried to breach pharma company Gilead’s email accounts. Iran has denied the report.

China has also been mentioned by Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, as potentially targeting companies seeking vaccines or other COVID-19 related technology.

“We have full expectation that China will do everything in their power to obtain any viable research that we are conducting here in the U.S.,” Evanina said. “That will be in line with their capabilities and intent the last decade plus, and we are expecting them to continue to do so.”

Another path is to use researchers at universities in the US, for example, to steal technology and return it to another country. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department filed charges against a Chinese couple that had worked at a lab for 10 years in Ohio researching pediatric diseases and later set up their own company in China with the stolen technology.

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