Report: Chinese Hackers Stole at Least $20 Million in US COVID Relief Funds

The Secret Service reports that a Chinese hacking group has stolen at least $20 million from American COVID-19 relief funds across a dozen states.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, the group responsible is called APT41, a group that has been described as “the ‘workhorse’ of cyberespionage operations that benefit the Chinese government,” according to the original report by NBC. APT41 targeted loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as unemployment insurance funds. This marks the first time that the federal government has admitted to a case of pandemic funds fraud that is tied directly to a foreign government.

The Secret Service describes APT41 as a “Chinese state-sponsored, cyberthreat group that is highly adept at conducting espionage missions and financial crimes for personal gain.” While it is still unknown whether or not the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) directly ordered the attack, the incident still nonetheless represents a “dangerous” and “serious” threat to the United States, the report continues.

Unnamed government officials claim that the true purpose of such a hack isn’t even financial in nature, but is instead focused on collecting the personal information and data of American citizens, institutions, and businesses that China can subsequently use to engage in espionage.

A former Department of Justice (DOJ) official told NBC that APT41 is known for having “the patience, the sophistication, and the resources to carry out hacking that has a direct impact on national security.”

“The United States is target No. 1, because we are competitor No. 1,” said Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, head of the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. “It’s a really comprehensive, multi-decade, well-considered, well-resourced, well-planned, well-executed strategy.”

The Secret Service has claimed to have already recovered about half of the stolen $20 million.

The government’s attempted financial handouts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic had already become infamous for fraud, with many extremely wealthy and politically-connected businesses and individuals receiving funds over struggling small business owners. Out of $872.5 billion in federal pandemic unemployment funds, at least 20 percent were determined by the Department of Labor (DOL) to be improperly paid to undeserving recipients. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation later found that the DOL had overpaid unemployment benefits by over $350 billion from April 2020 to May 2021.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

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