Hackers linked to the Chinese government stole at least $20 million in U.S. COVID relief benefits, including Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance funds in over a dozen states, according to the Secret Service.
The theft of taxpayer funds by the Chengdu-based hacking group known as APT41 is the first instance of pandemic fraud tied to foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged publicly, but may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and cybersecurity experts.
The officials and experts, most speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, say other federal investigations of pandemic fraud also seem to point back to foreign state-affiliated hackers.
“It would be crazy to think this group didn’t target all 50 states,” said Roy Dotson, national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator for the Secret Service, who also acts as a liaison to other federal agencies probing COVID fraud.
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