The NY Times had a report over the weekend about how the US government was gearing up to accuse China of using cyberattacks to get at COVID-19 vaccine data:
The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic.
A draft of the forthcoming public warning, which officials say is likely to be issued in the days to come, says China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.” It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.
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I am sure this might be happening, but rather than fretting about cyber attacks and hacks, shouldn't we be asking why this data is locked up in the first place? This is a massive global health crisis, and the best way to get to a real vaccine or treatment is by sharing as much data as possible and being as open as possible. It truly should not matter if the US develops a treatment first or if someone else does. I recognize that there are ridiculous leaders around the globe who are more focused on "owning" any eventual treatment, and perhaps even using it only for their own citizens, but this is insanely short-sighted on both sides of the equation.
First, we will develop any successful treatment much faster (and likely much better) by getting more smart people considering all the options and making suggestions on better approaches. That will save a huge number of lives. Second, it's a global pandemic, and the only way to really make sure it's not a problem in any particular region is to make sure it's not a problem anywhere. Solving for it in one country would then require constant vigilance to make sure it doesn't re-enter.
This really should be a moment of global cooperation to deal with the pandemic on a truly global basis. And yet, so many countries—including the US—are retreating into nonsense nationalistic stances that focus on locking up ideas and keeping things for "ourselves," rather than opening things up to the world and sharing broadly. What a shame.