State-sponsored hackers accused of trying to steal vaccine secrets | #Databreach | Pentest | #Hacker


State-sponsored hackers from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have been accused of attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine secrets from research companies.

Security experts have accused them of trying to obtain vaccine trial results before they were published and seize sensitive information about the mass production of drugs.

Microsoft said that earlier this month it had detected cyber-attacks from “three nation-state actors targeting seven prominent companies” who were directly involved in researching Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

North Korea accused

Two were judged to have come from North Korea, which used spear phishing lures; one sent “fabricated job descriptions pretending to be recruiters” while the second tried to lure researchers “while masquerading as a World Health Organization representative” according to Tom Burt, a corporate vice-president at Microsoft.

Microsoft said some of the cyber attacks had come from North Korean hackers (Photo: AP/Michel Euler)

Earlier this year, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre also reported that Covid vaccine research labs were being targeted in the UK, US and Canada by Russian state hackers linked to the FSB internal security agency.

Adam Meyers, senior vice-president at IT security company Crowdstrike, said that since March, countries including Russia and China had ‘become focused on Covid-19’.

“What you are seeing here is the latest stage in a long-running intellectual property war, but one where there is much more at stake to those involved. This has become a matter of national pride – who can develop vaccines first,” he said to The Guardian

Information theft

Jamie Collier, a cyberthreat intelligence consultant at IT firm FireEye Mandiant, said the focus at state level was on “information theft, data exfiltration” and that “we don’t see state actors exhibiting a destructive element.”

Martin McKee, a professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he wondered why states tried to steal vaccine secrets given so much information about Covid research was in the public domain, but that “one plausible interpretation is that these people are doing it simply because they can.” 

All the countries accused deny involvement in hacking. Russia said it has “no knowledge” of hacking attempts, while China has argued its vaccine research is so far ahead it has “no need to steal what others are doing”. Iran has also denied engaging in cyberwarfare.



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