It was confirmed Monday by U.S. Secret Service officials that prolific cybercriminals linked to the Chinese Communist Party had stolen nearly $20 million worth of COVID pandemic relief benefits.
According to the Daily Wire, the pandemic fraud instance is the first publicly acknowledged instance of theft linked to foreign and state-sponsored cybercriminals, according to anonymous law enforcement officials and cybersecurity experts.
In the report, NBC reports that officials said that the hacker group in question is APT41, which operates out of the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu and is a “Chinese state-sponsored cyber threat group which specializes in conducting espionage missions and financial crimes for personal gain”.
APT41 allegedly began stealing COVID relief funds in mid-2020 from approximately 2,000 accounts associated with more than 40,000 financial transactions, including Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance funds in more than a dozen states, under the names Winnti, Barium, and Wicked Panda.
It has been reported that billions of dollars of pandemic relief money have been stolen through the Paycheck Protection Program or unemployment insurance since 2020. The Secret Service reported last August that $286 million in stolen pandemic relief money had been recovered.
According to NBC News, Justice Department officials familiar with the group said that members hack software to weaponize against users, businesses, and governments. Chinese espionage groups also collect information and data from American citizens, institutions, and businesses.
A senior Justice Department official described APT41 as “dangerous,” adding the group poses “serious national security risks.”
Over 1,000 other investigations of foreign and domestic criminals stealing public benefits are underway, officials said.
The new report from the U.S. Secret Service has revealed some shocking information about the true extent of China’s capabilities. The findings show that China poses a much greater threat to the United States than previously thought, and that steps need to be taken immediately to counter this growing threat. This is just the latest in a long string of aggressive actions taken by China against the United States, and it is clear that something needs to be done in order to take control of the situation. China must be held accountable for their actions and punished accordingly, or else they will continue to take advantage of the United States and other countries. It is time to take action and protect ourselves from the growing China threat.