Secret Service: Chinese Hackers Stole Millions in COVID Relief Money

    Secret Service: Chinese Hackers Stole Millions in COVID Relief Money
    Last updated Dec 05, 2022
    Image credit: Getty Images [via New York Post]


    • In the US's first reported case of foreign state-sponsored pandemic fraud, the US Secret Service (USSS) has alleged that Chinese state-sponsored hacker group APT41 stole at least $20M in government COVID relief funds.[1]
    • Five APT41 members that stand accused of stealing taxpayer funds from Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance funds from more than 12 states have been indicted on federal charges, but not extradited to the US. They remain at-large.[2]
    • The alleged theft was uncovered as part of a larger investigation in which $286M, traced back to 15k fake accounts at a Texas bank, were recovered in August. Roughly $87B in COVID emergency funds have gone missing since the pandemic began.[3]
    • APT41 is known for multiple tactics, including hacking legitimate software and weaponizing it against users like governments and businesses, tracking public disclosures of software flaws, and targeting them before the software is updated.[4]
    • Roy Dotson, the national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator for the USSS, said: "It would be crazy to think this group didn’t target all 50 states." Another USSS source said there are over 1k current investigations involving criminals defrauding public benefits programs.[5]
    • Five other members of APT41 were charged in 2019 and 2020 with infiltrating governments and companies around the world to conduct ransomware attacks and steal cryptocurrency. The US has also blamed Chinese hackers for the Office of Personnel Management, Anthem Health, and Equifax breaches.[4]


    Anti-China narrative

    This tells us that the Chinese government not only condones but works alongside these hackers as they infiltrate US economic relief programs and steal taxpayer dollars. The Secret Service and DOJ have rightly been combatting groups like APT41 for years and must continue to take action against and build measures to prevent such deplorable schemes.

    Pro-China narrative

    The US for years has claimed that the Chinese government supports cyberattacks, without providing a shred of evidence. This is just the latest example of Washington's smear campaign against China in an attempt to bully Beijing and maintain its global hegemony.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    This is no surprise given that the government handed out more than $800B in COVID funds with zero checks and balances, essentially providing an open invitation to fraudsters and criminals. Coupled with the government's awareness of past Chinese hackers' attempts to steal from relief programs, American taxpayers could understandably believe their government doesn't actually care about safeguarding their hard-earned money.

    Articles on this story