Microsoft: Russian and North Korean hackers are targeting COVID-19 vaccine developers
15 November, 2020, 11:03
According to Microsoft, the state-sponsored hackers have targeted pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers based in Canada, France, India, South Korea, in addition to the US.
Microsoft says it has detected cyberattacks by hackers operating in Russian Federation and North Korea against seven companies working on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
Microsoft executive Tom Burt said in a statement his company was timing its announcement with Microsoft President Brad Smith's appearance at the virtual Paris Peace Forum, where he would call on world leaders "to affirm that global law protects health care facilities and to take action to enforce the law".
The two North Korean actors are known as Zinc and Cerium.
The company alleges one of the hacking groups is Fancy Bear, which is best known for breaking into the Democratic National Committee in 2016. The hacking groups are the Russia-linked Fancy Bear, which Microsoft refers to as Strontium; the North Korea-connected organization Lazarus Group, which Microsoft calls Zinc; and a third North Korean group that Microsoft has not previously mentioned publicly, which it calls Cerium.
Mr Burt said company was timing its announcement with Microsoft President Brad Smith's appearance at the virtual Paris Peace Forum, where he would call on world leaders "to affirm that worldwide law protects health care facilities and to take action to enforce the law".
Russian Federation has previously denied targeting vaccine research.
Microsoft is calling for more governments and organizations to join the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. "And I say this at a time when I'm more optimistic about the leadership of my own government, the United States government, as we look to the new administration and the four years ahead".
Most of the groups targeted are working on vaccines for the coronavirus, Burt noted.
Burt continues: "We believe the law should be enforced not just when attacks originate from government agencies but also when they originate from criminal groups that governments enable to operate - or even facilitate - within their borders. This is criminal activity that can not be tolerated". The company has notified the organizations targeted by the attacks, and has offered assistance in cases where the attacks were successful.
The FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency put out a joint alert last month warning of an "increased and imminent cybercrime threat to us hospitals and healthcare providers".
Cyberattacks targeting the health care sector and taking advantage of the pandemic are not new.
Burt wrote Friday that 195 organizations had enrolled in the program since April, with 1.7 million email accounts now protected by Microsoft.
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