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US Charges 2 Chinese Spies For A Global Hacking Campaign That Targeted COVID-19 Vaccine Research

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U.S. prosecutors have charged two wanted Chinese nationals linked to Beijing for their alleged involvement in a global hacking operation that targeted hundreds of companies and governments for more than a decade, stealing sensitive information.

The 11-count indictment unsealed on Tuesday, July 22, alleges Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, said to be working for China’s state intelligence bureau, stole terabytes of data from high-technology companies, around the world including the United States, the prosecutors said.

The prosecutors accused the hackers of recently targeting the networks of over a dozen U.S. companies in Maryland, Massachusetts, and California developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

The indictment comes just weeks after both the FBI and Homeland Security warned that China was actively trying to steal U.S. research data related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The hackers were first discovered after they targeted a U.S. Department of Energy network in Hanford, Washington, the Justice Department said.

The prosecutors said the hackers also targeted companies in Australia, South Korea, and several European nations, using known but unpatched vulnerabilities in widely used web server software to break into their victims’ networks. By gaining a foothold onto the network, the hackers installed password-stealing software to gain deeper access to their systems.

The prosecutors also said that the hackers would “frequently” return to the networks — in some cases years later.

According to the indictment, the hackers stole “hundreds of millions of dollars” worth of trade secrets and intellectual property. The prosecutors also allege that the hackers stole data related to military satellite programs, military wireless networks and high-powered microwave and laser systems from defense contractors.

The hackers are said to have targeted their victims on behalf of China’s intelligence services, but also hacked for personal financial gain.

In one case, prosecutors said the hackers “sought to extort cryptocurrency” from a victim company by threatening to publish the victim’s stolen source code online.

John C. Demers, U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, said that the indictments were “concrete examples” of how China used hackers to “rob, replicate and replace” non-Chinese companies in the global marketplace.

Demers also accused China of providing a safe-haven for the hackers.

“China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cyber criminals in exchange for those criminals being ‘on call’ to work for the benefit of the state, here to feed the Chinese Communist party’s insatiable hunger for American and other non-Chinese companies’ hard-earned intellectual property, including COVID-19 research,” said Demers.

Mandiant, the incident response division of security firm FireEye, said it has tracked the hackers since 2013 and the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the hackers is “consistent” with its findings.

“The Chinese government has long relied on contractors to conduct cyber intrusions,” said Ben Read, senior manager of analysis at Mandiant, in an email. “Using these freelancers allows the government to access a wider array of talent, while also providing some deniability in conducting these operations.”

“The pattern described in the indictment where the contractors conducted some operations on behalf of their government sponsors, while others were for their own profit is consistent with what we have seen from other China-nexus groups such as APT41,” he said, referring to the Chinese advanced persistent threat group associated with the indictment.

If prosecuted, the wanted hackers could each face more than 40 years in prison. But prosecutors believe the hackers are in China, and extraditions to the U.S. are unlikely because of the strained relationship between China and the US.

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Real Madrid, Juventus Crash Out Of UEFA Champions League

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Guardiola’s men will now head to Portugal for a quarter-final tie with Lyon, who have pulled off an upset by beating much-fancied Juventus on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw.

As for Madrid, they have a month’s rest before doing it all over again. Manchester City are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 2-1 victory on the day to seal a 4-2 win on aggregate.

Sterling made the most of a Varane error to give the hosts an early lead and, after Benzema had levelled things up with a good header, Jesus scored a second for the hosts following another Varane howler.

Despite losing the game 2-1, Lyon are through to the quarter-finals on away goals. Depay gave his side an early lead with a penalty, catching Szczesny out with a Panenka after Aouar was fouled by Bernardeschi.

Ronaldo pulled one back from the spot after Depay’s handball. Ronaldo got his second with a brilliant curling effort, but they couldn’t find the other goal they needed to get through.

Alas, the end of the road…

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg Becomes World’s Third Centibillionaire

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Facebook’s CEO has joined Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, as the only people with centibillionaire status.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune has topped $100bn for the first time, placing him among members of the world’s centibillionaires’ club.

This comes after Facebook’s shares surged by 6% on the news that the company plans to launch Instagram Reels, a rival to the Chinese video-sharing application TikTok.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump banned US companies from dealing with ByteDance and Tencent – the Chinese owners of TikTok and the WeChat messaging service.

The 36-year old media magnate has joined Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, as the only people who have centibillionaire status, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index said.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook while a student at Harvard in 2004, owns a 13% stake in the company. Earlier, he said that he was going to give away 99% of his Facebook shares over his lifetime to charity.

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Inside Nigeria

Aisha, Wife Of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari Flown To Dubai For Urgent Medical Treatment

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Aisha Buhari

New reports reveal that Aisha Buhari, the wife of Nigeria’s President, has been flown to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for urgent medical treatment.

It was gathered that the First Lady was flown to the Arabian country last weekend during the Muslim Sallah holiday after complaining of neck pain for about two weeks before that time.

The neck pain was said to have started shortly after Mrs Buhari returned to Abuja from a trip to Lagos in July where she had visited Florence, widow of former Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, who died of Coronavirus complications on June 25, 2020.

Upon her return to Abuja, Aisha was said to have self-isolated for 14 days in line with the Coronavirus safety regime.

A source close to the seat of power informed SaharaReporters that the First Lady’s neck pain assumed a disturbing dimension shortly after she completed the 14-day isolation period, forcing the decision to fly her to UAE for medical treatment.

The source confirmed that she is in a stable condition and observing bed rest at a hospital in the Arabian country.

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