A hacking group associated with the Chinese Communist Party reportedly stole at least $20 million from the US government via exploiting COVID-19 relief funds.
The Secret Service claims the group, known as APT41, obtained the illicit payouts via Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance.
The Secret Service refrained from offering precise details in a statement to NBC News, but stated that there are at least 1,000 open investigations into instances of international and domestic attempts to defraud the US government via COVID-19 programs.
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The organization told NBC that APT41 is a “notable player” in the flurry of fraud attempts.
The Chinese Communist Party has denied any involvement.
Auditors say the speed with which federal emergency loan programs were set up in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 left the programs vulnerable to fraud, though millions of legitimate businesses benefited from the programs.
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“There’s no doubt they’ve had a positive impact. However, the management of these programs needs to be dramatically improved,” U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro said last year.
Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated in no uncertain terms that when it comes to threats to the United States in areas such as national security and the economy, China is by far the most serious.
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In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Wray outlined how the Chinese Communist Party is targeting the U.S.
“The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s ideas, innovation and economic security, our national security, is that from China,” Wray said. “The Chinese government aspires to equal or surpass the U.S. as a global superpower and influence the world with a value system shaped by undemocratic, authoritarian ideals.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.