The UK and its allies have accused Russian state intelligence of hacking international research centres that are in a race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The UK, US and Canada on Thursday, said that Russian intelligence is attempting to steal information on those vaccines through irresponsible cyberattacks.
It is, however, unclear if the research facilities have been damaged or if the vaccine programmes have been set back as a result of the hacks but the officials warned that the cyber-attacks are ongoing.
UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said that vaccine and therapeutic sectors in multiple countries have been targeted by a group known as APT29, which it said is almost certainly part of Russian state intelligence. Security agencies in the U.S. and Canada later issued their own statements backing up the findings. Russia denied involvement.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said, ‘’It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic. While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the U.K. and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”
The Russians have however denied the allegations by the UK and its allies.
In an explanation to Bloomberg, the Russian spokesman said, ‘’We don’t know who may have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centers. We can only say Russia has nothing to do with these attempts. We don’t accept such accusations.’’
The NCSC said APT29, which is also known as Cozy Bear or The Dukes, has targeted U.K., U.S. and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations. They said the campaign of malicious activity is ongoing, predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property.
A cybersecurity firm, Carbon Black, in a published analysis in March, said researchers have long linked APT29 to Russian intelligence agencies as for more than a decade, the group has carried out hacking campaigns that have targeted dozens of governments, research institutes, and corporations around the world.
The British claims were supported by partners at the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA said organizations in the U.S. involved in vaccine development were also targeted by the hackers with the objective of the hacking and stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of Covid-19 vaccines.
The Canadian government said they are working with Westminster and Washington to stop these cyber-attacks.