Spy agencies target biomedical secrets in worldwide race to find COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 coronavirusSpy agencies from every country are participating in a worldwide competition to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic, by protecting their own biomedical secrets while trying to steal other nations’ research. Much like frantic efforts to secure personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, ongoing research to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 appears to be taking the form of a competition between nations. The country that first develops a successful vaccine to combat the epidemic is likely to emerge as a major power-player in a post-coronavirus world.

The government of the United States, whose race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 is reportedly codenamed Operation WARPSPEED, has warned its biomedical experts that foreign intelligence agencies may be trying to spy on their research. This warning was relayed to the BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera on April 1 by Bill Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC). The NCSC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the US agency created after the attacks of September 11, 2001, to coordinate the activities of American spy agencies. The mission of the NCSC is to manage the US government’s counterintelligence activities.

Evanina told the BBC that the NCSC has “every expectation that foreign intelligence services, to include the Chinese Communist Party, will attempt to obtain what we are making here”. He added that his organization had contacted “every medical research organization” carrying out COVID-19-related research and warned them that they should be “very, very vigilant”. However, Evanina would not tell the BBC whether scientific data had actually been stolen by foreign intelligence agencies.

According to the BBC, other Western governments, including those of the United Kingdom and Canada, have warned that foreign spies have become active in the field of biomedical intelligence, with attempts to steal scientific data related to COVID-19. In March, Canada’s Centre for Cyber Security warned that research and development data related to the pandemic may be targeted by “sophisticated threat actors” operating online.

The BBC notes, however, that Western intelligence agencies are also likely to be interested in biomedical data from China and other countries. Their interest may be two-fold: on the one hand trying to determine the precise origins of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the precise case load of the virus in these countries, while on the other seeking to steal information about “research on vaccines and treatments”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 May 2020 | Permalink

2 Responses to Spy agencies target biomedical secrets in worldwide race to find COVID-19 vaccine

  1. Peter Parkinson says:

    Maybe there is no vaccine to find, they cannot find a cure to some of some of the world problems like arthritic joint diseases. Maybe natural immunity is the only answer, people live or die, boosting the immune system may be the only way stop the virus. By stopping disease in th young might be stopping the immune system working in older people. Pollution may also be damaging the immune system. People who think we will and can live for ever are wrong, Jimmy thought he was going to live forever, a christian teaching, he died of Alzheimer’s Disease, humans/animals have one life and we wear out in the end. The are carcinogenic like illegal drugs that may break down the natural immune system.
    Good luck if the fined a vaccine, then it would be a criminal office to withhold it from any human/animal country to prevent pandemics.
    War could break out to get the vaccine also withholding the vaccine would be a crime against humanity just by rumour/speculation when its given to humans in one country. That country my try to hold the world to ransom.
    Spying will go on and trust also suspicion will escalate, if God exists then he is not working in the world and people, many good people have trust in others also get disappointed.
    You cannot win them all may have to self isolate underground and go out in a bio protected vehicle.
    Probably my life will have ended by then, at the age of 73, I have done some good in world, two daughters grown up, wife died in 2005 and put a few criminals away as well as serving my country. The brain still works tired of being put upon by criminals and will fight them and the virus.

  2. williamdowney5 says:

    While in a perfect world every country would be sharing the research, this is not a perfect world. In point of fact, it has become even more paranoid since the advent of COVID-19.

    It is particularly true regarding the Chines Communist Party. They have obfuscated and eliminated data on their experience with the disease. That includes information concerning infections, deaths, spread, in addition to research they may be conducting on vaccines. It is not surprising therefore that the 5 Eyes are interested in this information. One may deduce that intelligence organizations are also interested in rates of infection/deaths in other authoritarian countries. All of those governments have transparency issues based on both the domestic and international stage.

    Organized well-funded state actors based in authoritarian countries will have agendas relating to vaccine R&D and the spread of disinformation. For those countries, the development of a vaccine is not so much a domestic issue but its use as foreign capital to promote soft diplomacy especially in hard-hit developing countries with poor medical infrastructure. Additionally, for the CCP the development of a vaccine and its deployment more critical as it tries to ‘save face” or in politically correct term rehabilitate its tarnished international image.

    As for the more developed countries, the CIC is doing exactly what its purpose is, protecting government and corporate R&D. Diplomatic and science intelligence is part of the job and has been going on since diplomatic relations were first established. It is the reason that diplomatic posts have attaches, whose duties include gathering open-source and other intelligence data, as well as promoting the exchange of critical data, in this case, R&D on COVID-19. In fact, you are more apt to find the collection and discrimination of data related to COVID from open societies.

    As a former member of the national security community, the fact that these activities is taking place is not surprising.

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