Russian Hacker Group Accused Of Targeting COVID-19 Vaccine Research In Canada, U.S. and U.K

Given the times that we live in, a vaccine is the top thing the planet must do in terms of getting the planet out of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it doesn’t exactly come as a shock that research into a vaccine is a target for hackers that belong to nation states. Case in point is the news that Russian hackers have targeted COVID-19 research:

A hacker group “almost certainly” backed by Russia has tried to steal COVID-19-related vaccine research in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., according to intelligence agencies in all three countries.

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE), responsible for Canada’s foreign signals intelligence, said APT29 — also known as Cozy Bear and the Dukes — is behind the malicious activity.

The group was accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 U.S. election.

The group “almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services,” the CSE said in a statement released Thursday morning in co-ordination with its international counterparts — an allegation the Kremlin immediately denied.

No shock that the Kremlin denies this as I am sure that nation sates don’t want to be associated with the activities of the hacker groups that they covertly sponsor as it gives them plausible deniability. This is important because Russia has a history of stealing intellectual property. David Masson, Director of Enterprise Security, Darktrace goes into more details about that:

The Soviet Union, and now its successor Russia, has a long and established history of stealing other countries’ intellectual property in order to satisfy national interests. In this instance, we are being warned about an APT (APT 29) linked to the Russian Intelligence Services using cyber-attacks to obtain information on COVID-19 research from medical organizations around the world. Given the recent warning from the US/UK and Canada combined, we can consider that these three countries have been victims of such attacks.

Russia is also facing the effects of this global pandemic and will be seeking “help” in order to deal with it now and in the future. Trying to gain an advantage in the fight against COVID-19 could well lead to theft of research from around the world in order to avoid otherwise necessary investment in time, money and effort (which may not be available). In the modern era, cyber-attacks have proven to be a very cost-effective way of obtaining information that may well be very difficult to get ahold of by other means. Currently the crown jewels in the COVID-19 fight will be a vaccine, so information and research on this subject are extremely valuable.

Medical research organisations, especially those working in academia often operate in a climate of trust and collaboration and will be seen as easy targets by groups such as APT29 who will exploit this. We can expect further attacks and further warnings as the pandemic wears on.

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