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$20 Million in COVID-19 Humanitarian Funds Stolen by Chinese Government-Linked Hackers, Secret Service Claims

The first government-acknowledged incidence of pandemic fraud by state-sponsored foreign hackers included the theft of at least $20 million in US COVID-19 relief funds by hackers connected to the Chinese government.

The Secret Service exclusively reported that the China-based hacker group APT41 dubbed a prolific “workhorse” of cyberattacks, has stolen money from SBA loans and unemployment insurance in over a dozen states.

Chinese Hackers

The operation, which started in the middle of 2020, involved more than 40,000 transactions over 2,000 accounts. According to the Secret Service, around half of the money has been found.

The hackers, though, might still be inside government systems. In March, a cybersecurity company revealed that APT41 had compromised at least six state governments’ networks and was stealing their data.

William Evanina, a former head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, asserts that they might always exist.

Since many institutions are interconnected at the state and local levels, Evanina stated to NBC that “once you are in these networks with the intent to promote theft, you’re in forever.” He stated that “tearing down the systems and replacing everything” is the only way to get around that.

Even while a senior Justice Department official warned that the hack was “serious” and may “escalate,” it is unclear whether China was behind it. APT41 is one of the numerous groups that accept contracts for government espionage.

READ MORE: Paid Your Student Loan Debt? You May Get a Refund!

Hackers linked to Chinese government stole millions in Covid benefits, Secret Service says
The first government-acknowledged incidence of pandemic fraud by state-sponsored foreign hackers included the theft of at least $20 million in US COVID-19 relief funds by hackers connected to the Chinese government.

US COVID-19 Humanitarian Funds

According to the Secret Service, APT41 engages in “financial crimes for personal gain and is state-sponsored by the Chinese government.

Even if the attack wasn’t ordered by the Chinese government, its disclosure sheds light on the wave of fraud that followed the government’s release of trillions of dollars during the pandemic. The $20 million that Chinese hackers allegedly took is a pittance compared to the COVID-19 relief funds that were misappropriated or lost due to fraud.

The stolen COVID-19 money has been estimated to be worth up to $400 billion, with the majority likely going to overseas criminals.

The agency recently tested only four states’ pandemic-boosted unemployment benefits and determined that 42 percent, or $30.4 billion, had been disbursed incorrectly.

With up to $80 billion in stolen funds, the Paycheck Protection Program has been dubbed the “largest swindle of a generation.” According to the Times Union, a different Small Business Administration lending program lost an additional $80 billion. A federal law enforcement official said that “we’ll never be able to indict and find” many of these individuals. It is borderless thanks to the internet and the dark web.

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