Daily Management Review

Covid-19 Vaccine Maker AstraZeneca Targeted By Suspected North Korean Hackers: Reuters


Covid-19 Vaccine Maker AstraZeneca Targeted By Suspected North Korean Hackers: Reuters
With the British drug maker AstraZeneca close to deploying its vaccine for the Covid-19 virus, hacking attempts had been made into the systems of the British drug maker by suspected North Korean hackers, according to a report  by the news agency Reuters quoting information from sources with knowledge of the matter.
The sources reportedly said the hackers attempted to lure in AstraZeneca staff with fake job offers having posed as recruiters on networking site LinkedIn and WhatsApp and approached the staff. The hackers then sent the staff documents masqueraded as job descriptions which were filled with malicious code that could be used for gaining access to the computers of the targeted staff.
A “broad set of people” including the company’s employees working on Covid-19 research were targeted by the hackers bit were not reported to have been successful, the report saud quoting a source.
There were no comments made to the report by the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva. On earlier occasions the country has denied designing cyber-attacks and there are no direct line of contact between the North Korean authorities and for foreign media.
No comments were also available from AstraZeneca, which is developing the Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with Oxford University.
Based on the tools and techniques used in the attacks, it was evident that those were attributed to an on-going hacking campaign which have been attributed to North Korea by US officials and cyber security researchers, said the sources who were not named in the Reuters report because they were not authorised to publicly speak on the issue.
Defence companies and media organisations were the previous targets of the North Korean cyber hacking campaign but in recent week have shifted targets related to Covid-19, the report said. 
With state supported and criminal hacking groups trying hard to get lay their hands on the latest research and information about the pandemic, the number of incidents and attempts of hacking of health bodies, vaccine scientists and drug makers have only increased during the pandemic.
Any data and information on Covid-19 stolen by hackers can be sold against money or used for extorting the victims or provide a valuable strategic advantage to foreign governments in the fight against the pandemic and to contain the spread of the disease that has killed more than 1.4 million people globally, say Western officials.
Evidence of vaccine developers in multiple countries being targeted by two North Korean hacking groups have been found by it, Microsoft said this month, and the modus operandi included “sending messages with fabricated job descriptions”. No names of the targeted organisations were revealed by Microsoft.
Some of such attempts have been foiled by the country’s intelligence agency, said South Korean lawmakers on Friday.
Attempted hacks into the computer and server systems of leading drug makers and even the World Health Organisation have been made this year by and even the World Health Organisation, previous reports have said. Such allegations have all been denied by the respective countries.
According to the latest Reuters report, in the latest cyber attack attempt on AstraZeneca, some of the accounts used were registered to Russian email addresses possibly to misguide investigators.