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Chinese Hackers 'Trying To Steal Vaccine Information', US Official Claims

Chinese-backed hackers have reportedly attempted to steal information from researchers who are working on a coronavirus vaccine, according to a US official.

The US government will issue a warning about individuals who are attempting to pilfer information from researchers during the pandemic, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

A warning from the FBI will identify the threat posed by "non-traditional actors" including other researchers and Chinese students, an unnamed official told the publication.

“These actors have been observed attempting to identify and obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data,” a draft of the warning says, according to the official.

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The official said there's no evidence a cyberattack had succeeded but a warning would be issued within the following week.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry refuted the claims.

“We firmly oppose and fight all kinds of cyber attacks conducted by hackers. We are leading the world in COVID-19 treatment and vaccine research," Zhao Lijian said.

"It is immoral to target China with rumours and slanders in the absence of any evidence.”

US President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Image: Getty

Tensions have been boiling between the US and China in recent weeks.

China lashed out at the US, accusing the country of "lying through its teeth" after President Donald Trump suggested he'd be seeking "substantial" compensation for coronavirus in a press conference in April.

"We are not happy with China," Trump said.

"We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn't have spread all over the world."

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The United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in a recent interview that there is "enormous evidence" that the coronavirus came from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued a biting statement in response to Trump's comments.

"We advise American politicians to reflect on their own problems and try their best to control the [coronavirus] epidemic as soon as possible instead of continuing to play tricks to deflect blame," Shuang said.

Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also made unfounded claims that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.

China has also expressed vitriol towards Australia after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne encouraged an independent investigation into the country's handling of coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Image: Getty

"We are open to an international investigation," Chinese diplomat Wu Ken told Der Spiegel magazine.

"But we reject putting China in the dock without evidence, assuming its guilt and then trying to search for evidence through a so-called international investigation."

Meanwhile, last week, Chinese hackers also targeted WA Premier Mark McGowan, according to the New York Times.

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An Israeli software company identified a form of malware, called Aria-body, in an email sent to the Premier's office in January.

Check Point Software Technologies said the Chinese-backed Naikon group hacked the computer of an Indonesian diplomat and sent a draft email with malware to the Premier's office.

A WA Government spokesman later told the ABC the email was addressed to an employee in the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) but had been blocked by a security system.

WA Premier Mark McGowan. Image: AAP

"This demonstrates the department has good protections in place, consistent with industry best practice," he said.

"The incident was reviewed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the department's email security system. No further action was necessary."

"Thousands of malicious emails are blocked by the email security system every week."