Why Is The US Trying To Punish Hackers For Accessing Vaccine Research We Should Be Sharing With The World?
from the what-a-stupdendous-waste-of-time dept
Back in May, I wondered why the US was trying to hide vaccine data from the Chinese. In fact, it was bizarre that the US government seemed concerned about Chinese hackers trying to access vaccine data, because why would anyone keep such data secret in the first place. This is a global pandemic and the way you solve a global pandemic is with a global solution, and the way to get there faster (and better) is with the open sharing of information. Hoarding and locking up information regarding a potential vaccine makes no sense at all. And yet, this morning, the DOJ made a big showing of how it had indicted Chinese hackers for trying to hack COVID-19 related research.
The Justice Department on Tuesday accused two Chinese hackers of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of trade secrets from companies across the world and more recently targeting firms developing a vaccine for the coronavirus.
This is totally performative, as those hackers are in China and the US can’t do a damn thing about them, other than allow for Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray to grandstand and pretend they’re doing something useful. And, again, the really shameful part is the fact that this research is “secret” in the first place.
And, of course, last week we had a repeat of the story from May, except that this time it wasn’t “Chinese hackers” trying to get vaccine data, but theoretical Russian hackers:
Russian cyber actors are targeting organizations involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a new warning by US, UK and Canadian security officials on Thursday that details activity by a Russian hacking group called APT29, which also goes by the name “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear.”
An advisory published by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) details activity by the Russian hacking group and explicitly calls out efforts to target US, UK and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations.
“APT29’s campaign of malicious activity is ongoing, predominantly against government, diplomatic, think tank, healthcare and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property,” a press release on the advisory said.
I’m sure within a month or two we’ll have another performative press conference from Barr and Wray announcing pointless show charges against Russian hackers as well, because why not?
And, again, rather than recognize that saving and protecting global health is the key priority here, the US government is responding by worrying that others might save the world first. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy is even introducing a bill to “sanction foreign hackers” for trying to get US COVID-19 vaccine information in his somewhat pointless Defend COVID Research from Hackers Act”.
The bill is pointless on multiple levels. Foreign hackers are not subject to US jurisdiction, so this wouldn’t do anything in the first place. Second, given the indictments announced today, it’s not as if law enforcement actually needs greater authority. They seem to have the authority they need to go after hackers. But, (to repeat myself) more importantly, we should be sharing this research widely and getting everyone else to pool their research efforts as well in order to move everyone forward as quickly as possible in order to save as many lives as possible. This isn’t a zero sum game where one country “wins” and another “loses.” This is about stopping a devastating global pandemic.
As even CNN is admitting, there are no good health reasons for keeping this info secret or worrying about hacks, it’s literally a completely wasteful attempt to want to claim bragging rights.
Given the inevitable confusion ahead, getting to the head of the line just does not make sense as an explanation, at least from a financial windfall perspective or a saving lives perspective. But the need to dominate voiced both by Trump and the leader of Russian vaccine efforts, Dmitriev, makes the likely reason for any sneak attack all too clear. It’s less about saving the world with a vaccine than about beating the other guy and taking home the first place medal.
What a stupid, stupid reason. Leadership is about doing the right thing even if it makes you look bad. The right thing here is figuring out how to save as many lives as possible and to end the pandemic as quickly as possible. McCarthy’s bill would do the opposite of that, and is a total waste of time. I get that it’s still driven by the silly belief that everything related to drug discovery must be “owned” and “patented,” but actual lives are on the line right now, and Rep. McCarthy should be ashamed that he’s wasting time and holding back research, instead of encouraging more open sharing of information.