There is growing concern among experts in the U.S. that China is targeting American universities for hacking, specifically for maritime technology.

Dustin Volz of the Wall Street Journal published an extensive report on this yesterday, and although it is behind a paywall, here is an excerpt via Marketwatch:

Chinese hackers target University of Hawaii, MIT and other schools in pursuit of military secrets

Chinese hackers have targeted more than two dozen universities in the U.S. and around the globe as part of an elaborate scheme to steal research about maritime technology being developed for military use, according to cybersecurity experts and current and former U.S. officials.

The University of Hawaii, the University of Washington and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among at least 27 universities in the U.S., Canada and Southeast Asia that Beijing has targeted, according to iDefense, a cybersecurity intelligence unit of Accenture Security.

The research, to be published this week, is the latest indication that Chinese cyberattacks to steal U.S. military and economic secrets are on the rise. The findings, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, name a substantial list of university targets for the first time, reflecting the breadth and nature of the ongoing cyber campaign that iDefense said dates to at least April 2017.

Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller has more on this:

The hackers took advantage of academic researchers not noticing that emails pretending to be from peers at other institutions were actually “phishing” attempts or contained malware. Infected files then spread, for example, from the University of Hawaii’s Applied Research Laboratory to Penn State.

“They are a full-fledged operation,” Ben Read, senior manager for cyber espionage analysis at FireEye, told the Wall Street Journal. “And they are not going anywhere.”

Many of the schools are linked to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a Massachusetts research institute that located the sunken Titanic and partners with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

The team is suspected of hacking a warfare center contractor and stealing plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile.

The cybersecurity firm iDefense said it identified breaches of universities by noticing that the schools’ servers were pinging China.

Chinese officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but have denied that they engage in cyberattacks.

Rosiak also points to the issue of Confucius Institutes, which are found on many American college campuses, and which have been accused of spreading propaganda from China:

The country has also mounted an influence operation targeted at American universities. So-called Confucius Institutes inside U.S. colleges, which Chinese officials have described as effective arms for propaganda, have grown considerably in recent years. College administrators have expressed little concern even as some Chinese staff affiliated with the program sabotaged academic efforts, and the Chinese government shut down a reciprocal program in that country. Seventy percent of U.S. universities hosting the Chinese program violated the law by not disclosing the foreign funding, according to a bipartisan Senate report.

Senator Ted Cruz discussed this during a recent appearance on FOX News:

As the video mentions, Cruz is planning to reintroduce the “Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act” which can be read here.

Featured image via YouTube.