WASHINGTON: China-based hackers stole at least $20 million in US Covid relief benefits, including unemployment insurance funds and Small Business Administration loans, NBC news reported citing the Secret Service of the country.
The Chinese government-linked hackers belong to a Chengdu-based group known as APT41. The report says other federal pandemic fraud investigations also appear to point to hackers affiliated with foreign states.
“It would be crazy to think that this group didn’t target all 50 states,” Roy Dotson, National Pandemic Enforcement Coordinator for the Secret Service, told NBC.
The US Secret Service declined to confirm the scope of the other investigations.
They said there were more than 1,000 ongoing investigations involving transnational and domestic criminal actors defrauding public benefit programs, and APT41 is “a notable player,” according to NBC News.
In recent months, the United States has witnessed an increase in espionage cases from China.
Last month, in three separate cases, the US government indicted 13 people, including members of China’s security and intelligence apparatus and their agents, for alleged attempts to unlawfully exert influence in the United States for the benefit of their government.
“As these cases demonstrate, the Chinese government has sought to interfere with the rights and freedoms of individuals in the United States and to undermine our legal system that protects those rights. They were unsuccessful,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garlandas quoted in the Department of Justice press release.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate any attempt by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law on which our democracy is built. We will continue to fiercely protect the rights guaranteed to everyone in our country. And we will defend the integrity of our institutions,” added Garland.
Seven Chinese nationals have been charged – two of whom were arrested on October 20 in New York – with participating in a scheme to bring about the forcible repatriation of a PRC national residing in the United States.
The defendants are accused of surveilling and participating in a campaign to harass and coerce a US resident to return to Beijing as part of an international extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt”.

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