Posted on November 15, 2020 at 4:46 PM
In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft revealed it thwarted an attempt by North Korean and Russian state-sponsored hackers trying to steal vital data from companies involved in the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines.
The tech giant stated that the majority of the attacks carried out against these researchers and pharmaceuticals were unsuccessful. However, the threat actors have not given up, as they have continued to look for ways to steal sensitive data.
Microsoft also revealed that hackers are targeting seven leading researchers and companies in South Korea, India, France, Canada, and the U.S.
Microsoft did not provide any information on how many of those attacks have been successful or whether there were serious breaches.
In July, the U.S. government also announced that hackers were targeting covid-19 vaccine makers, and stated the criminal charges for those who will be caught.
Earlier this year, Homeland Security and the FBI warned medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies involved in the covid-19 vaccine to beef up their security. The agencies warned that hackers are looking to steal their research on the novel disease.
In the warning on Friday, Microsoft said one of the state-sponsored hackers is the renowned Russian military agents known as Fancy Bear. It’s the same group of hackers the British cybercrime security unit revealed about their activities earlier this year. The other hacking syndicates are the Lazarus Group and a group known as Cerium.
The hackers tried stealing login details of people working or associated with the medical organizations being targeted.
Cerium used spear-phishing methods to target emails and acted like missives from representatives of the World Health Organization. On the other hand, the Lazarus group masqueraded as recruiters
Microsoft posted the blog at the same time its president Brad Smith appeared at an international forum advising nations to provide maximum security for their health care facilities against cyber attacks.
Growing optimism about a vaccine
There is no denying the fact that the news space has been filled with optimism about a Covid-19 vaccine after the pharmaceutical giant earlier announced its vaccine has about 90% potency on the disease.
While many are expecting the arrival of a vaccine soon, it seems that people have relaxed a bit about the prevention measures. The numbers of Covid-19 cases have spiked in many countries after it was slashed down.
In the U.S. the number of deaths per day from the disease has increased by 40%, and elsewhere in Europe, the number has also increased.
Cyber attackers, particularly the state-sponsored groups, are not resting until they steal relevant data about the vaccine. The race for the first vaccine is still on, and even though many pharmaceutical companies are protecting their data seriously, it has not deterred the hackers to try.
Although the hackers are looking for data relating to medical research, their main targets are companies who are in the process of developing a vaccine for the Corona-virus disease.
The blog explained that it is disturbing that the organized attack is disrupting the research process at a time when time is of the essence to discover a vaccine.
“We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society,” the blog continues.
Although Pfizer said the vaccine has been clinically tested, the preliminary data has not been examined by independent researchers. However, experts still see the development as an important step and an encouraging one towards the fight against the pandemic. Moderna also has a vaccine it is expected to reveal soon.