Chinese hackers with ties to the country’s ruling Communist Party stole at least $20 million in U.S COVID-19 relief funds, the Secret Service said Monday.
A hacking group known as APT41 consists of the first foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged as defrauding American pandemic relief funds, according to a report from NBC News that was confirmed by the Secret Service.
Officials said the Chengdu-based hackers accessed relief funds such as the Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance funds in over a dozen states.
“It would be crazy to think this group didn’t target all 50 states,” Roy Dotson, national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator for the Secret Service, told NBC. Mr. Dotson also acts as a liaison to other federal agencies probing COVID-19 fraud.
The Secret Service didn’t elaborate on other investigations into foreign and domestic fraud of public benefit programs but did tell the network that APT41 is a “notable player.”
APT41 has conducted government-supported hacks as well as financially motivated data breaches, according to Reuters.
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Members of the group were indicted by the Justice Department in 2019 and 2020 for spying on over 100 American companies, including telecommunications providers and social media firms.
The Chinese Embassy in D.C. told Reuters the Chinese government has always “firmly opposed and cracked down on all forms of cybertheft and hacking.” The embassy also pushed back on the “groundless accusations” that the country was involved in the reported theft.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.