Ministers warn COVID-19 researchers anew of threat of foreign actors

OTTAWA—A trio of federal cabinet ministers is warning COVID-19 researchers to take additional precautions to protect their efforts from thieves and vandals.

The statement today says the federal government is concerned about “hostile actors” targeting pandemic-related research in this country and urges government scientists, academics and private-sector workers to double- and triple-check their security measures.

Signed by Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the statement recommends strong cyber- and physical-security protocols.

It’s not clear what prompted this new alert, months after Canada’s intelligence agencies first warned of state-sponsored hackers targeting COVID-19 research.

In mid-July, Canadian, British and U.S. security services said they believed hackers working for Russia’s intelligence agency were trying to steal vaccine research.

The statement today warns of threats to intellectual property and business interests as well as long-term economic competitiveness from espionage and foreign interference.