The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canadian government agencies have issued notices on Thursday, July 16, 2020, stating that Russian intelligence services are hacking organizations involved in the COVID-19 vaccine development.
The accusation from the US, UK, and Canada comes as the rest world struggles to contain the pandemic.
According to The New York Times, the National Security Agency found links of a Russian hacking group that was implicated in 2016 for breaking into the Democratic Party servers in 2016 to be stealing vaccine data from universities, health care organizations, and other similar institutions in the United States.
The group is believed to be called APT29, also regarded as Cozy Bear or The Dukes. The Verge states the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of the United Kingdom believes that the organization has links with the Russian intelligence services.
Besides the National Security Agency of the United States and the National Cyber Security Centre of the United Kingdom, the Canadian Communication Security Establishment together with the US Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have also denounced the attacks of APT29.
The reports from the respective government intelligence officials reveal that the Russian hacking group was targetting to mine virus research in order to further fast track Russia’s own vaccine in response to the pandemic.
The targetted hacking attacks, however, posed no immediate danger to global public health nor the countries’ efforts towards developing their own vaccine, maintained The New York Times.
In an NCSC report, it states that APT29 resulted in using a “variety of tools and techniques” to breach into different governmental and healthcare agencies.
The advisory from the NCSC also reads that “The group frequently uses publicly available exploits to conduct widespread scanning and exploitation against vulnerable systems, likely in an effort to obtain authentication credentials to allow further access.”
Besides maintaining access to login information, APT20 also utilizes custom malware solutions designed to further its search into the target’s system.
Russia has since denied its links to the hacking attacks, notes BBC.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Russian President Putin Dmitry Peskov said, “We do not have information about who may have hacked into pharmaceutical companies and research centres in Great Britain. We can say one thing – Russia has nothing at all to do with these attempts.”
Cybersecurity experts said that it is unlikely for Russian hacking groups to be the only ones involved in targetted hacking campaigns. In the past, China has also been involved in hacking activities, with the country being accused of stealing vaccine information in May, reports The Verge.