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U.S. accuses hackers of stealing trade secrets, vaccine data for China

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Jul 22, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

U.S. accuses hackers of stealing trade secrets, vaccine data for China

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Jul 22, 2020
Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The U.S. Justice Department is accusing China of working with hackers to steal trade secrets and target U.S. companies working on a coronavirus vaccine.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer has the latest on this story. The follow is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Sabri Ben-Achour: Nancy, the U.S. is pointing the finger at two hackers in particular. What do we know about them?

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: The Justice Department indictment says there were two hackers, both in China. It says they worked with the Chinese government to steal millions of dollars worth of trade secrets and intellectual property from companies around the world. Prosecutors say the hackers targeted U.S. defense and health care companies, including at least four American firms working on coronavirus testing and treatment.

Ben-Achour: And how successful were these hackers?

Marshall-Genzer: The indictment doesn’t say. But the Justice Department says the hack could set back U.S. vaccine research or slow it down. That’s because the targeted companies now have to secure their research. They also have to be sure their data wasn’t corrupted by the hackers.

Ben-Achour: And how closely were the hackers connected to the Chinese government?

Marshall-Genzer: The Justice Department says they got help and guidance from Chinese intelligence agencies and also hacked some democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Ben-Achour: What does China have to say about this?

Marshall-Genzer: The Chinese embassy wouldn’t comment about it directly, instead pointing to remarks from a foreign ministry spokeswoman. She says the Chinese government opposes cyberattacks, and allegations that China is using hackers to steal U.S. research are “absurd.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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