The US has seen foreign spy agencies carry out reconnaissance of research into a coronavirus vaccine, a senior US intelligence official has told the BBC.
Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said the US government had warned medical research organisations of the risks.
But he would not say whether there had been confirmed cases of stolen data. A UK security source says they have also seen similar activity.
An international race is on to find a vaccine for Covid-19. Researchers, companies and governments are all involved. And their efforts are simultaneously being protected by domestic spy agencies, while being targeted by foreign ones.
Canada’s Centre for Cyber Security warned in March that “sophisticated threat actors may attempt to steal the intellectual property of organisations engaged in research and development related to Covid-19.”
US and Western spies are also likely to be interested in what is going on inside China, including any discrepancies over the death toll from Covid-19 as well as its research on vaccines and treatments.
There have also been ongoing concerns about the risks of cyber-attacks against health organisations, which could undermine their ability to respond to the outbreak.