Posted on July 17, 2020 at 5:35 PM
A recent report reveals that the Russian hacking syndicate is targeting American organizations involved in the development of the coronavirus vaccine. The report also revealed that hackers are targeting Canadian and British organizations involved in similar COVID-19 research.
The National Security Agency (NSA) revealed that the hacking group, who were exposed four years ago in the 2016 hacking incident on Democratic Party servers, was trying to steal important data on COVID-19 vaccines from health organizations, companies, and universities.
Hacker has a close link with Russian APT29 group
The hacking syndicate, with a close link with the popular Russian hacking group, is known as Cozy Bear or APT29, has set out to explore the global challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic, an NSA official said.
The NSA pointed out that the hackers are attempting to hack into the organizations’ database and steal research, not to sabotage other countries’ efforts but to develop their vaccine for the pandemic.
However, the Russian spying group is signaling a new type of competition between Washington and Moscow, just like when the Cold War spies stole technological secrets during the space race decades ago.
The Russian syndicates are targeting these organizations using fraudulent emails and accompanying such emails with malware. The fraudulent emails try to deceive the company’s employees to release passwords and other important security details to have access to the medical supply chains and access to the vaccine research.
Russia denies the allegation
This data theft allegation is coming against the backdrop of the United States resolve to call out foreign adversaries on breaches against U.S. organizations and its closest allies.
The U.S. government has initially warned American organizations on the efforts of Iran and China to steal COVID-19 vaccine research.
However, yesterday, the Russian government explicitly denied having anything to do with research theft.
Still, that doesn’t stop the American government from pointing accusing finders at Cozy Bear, which is controlled by the Russian S.V.R intelligence agency.
Director of operations at Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, Paul Chichester, released a statement regarding the hacking incident. He said the actions by the hacking group is condemnable, especially against those doing important jobs to combat the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Ciaran Martin, head of the cybersecurity center, said that the attacks were initially discovered in February but there is no evidence that data was stolen.
Government officials do not want to name the targets of hackers. However, it appears that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University in Britain are two of the major targets. The pharmaceutical company and Oxford University are jointly developing a vaccine for the Coronavirus pandemic.
Russia wants to avoid relying on Western countries for vaccine
On Thursday, Oxford scientists said they noticed a strong resemblance between their vaccine method and the method Russian scientists had reported.
Although the main goal of the Russian government is to steal the vaccine research to develop their own, it could also be urged to do so to avoid relying on Western countries when the vaccine is finally out.
AstraZeneca stated that it will offer the Oxford vaccine at a cost. However, philanthropists and governments have paid the company huge sums of money to secure a portion for themselves, even when there is no assurance that the vaccine will be effective.
The U.S. recently said it will pay about $1.2 billion to the company for funding a clinical trial and securing 300 million doses. If Russia successfully steals the vaccine research, it could be securing its own vaccine if it eventually proves successful at preventing coronavirus.
The main agenda of Russia is not to disrupt the production of the vaccine. However, it doesn’t want to sit back and relax while the U.K, the U.S., and other governments discover a vaccine, which will make the country reliant on the Western nations.
There has been an intense race for the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over half a million lives in the world and disrupted daily lives.
Presently, there are about 155 vaccines under development, with 23 of them undergoing the testing phase.