Chinese state-sponsored hacking groups have stolen at least €20 million from the US government, according to the Secret Service.
The hackers are said to have targeted Covid-19 relief funds – American taxpayer money earmarked to help businesses and private sector workers survive the disruptive pandemic.
The group blamed for siphoning off taxpayer money is called APT41, or Wicked Panda, also called Bario by some.
A matter of national security
This appears to be the first time the US government has publicly acknowledged a pandemic-related fraud linked to a state-sponsored foreign actor, but it likely won't be the last, as there are currently more than 1,000 investigations into potential transnationals and nationals. fraud incidents.
"It would be crazy to think that this group didn't target all 50 states," Roy Dotson, the Secret Service's national pandemic fraud coordinator, told NBC News (opens in a new tab).
It is unclear if the Chinese government told APT41 to attack the US government, or if the group acted on its own, with the local government turning a blind eye. Either way, senior Justice Department officials are calling it a "dangerous" event with serious national security implications.
The Chinese Embassy in the United States remains silent on the matter, although given their previous interactions on these matters, it is safe to assume that they will deny any involvement in cybercriminal activities.
Since the creation of the Covid unemployment funds, in 2020, cybercriminals were everywhere. In fact, according to figures from the Labor Department's Office of Inspector General, one-fifth (20%) of the €872,500 billion in funding was “improperly” distributed, the true magnitude of the fraud probably being even greater.
NBC News recalls that an in-depth analysis of four states showed that 42,4% of pandemic benefits were improperly paid in the first six months of the year.