Organisations working on a coronavirus vaccine have been targeted by state-backed hackers from Russia and North Korea, warns Microsoft.
The company claims the recent cyberattacks are the work of a group called Strontium from Russia, and two groups from North Korea, known as ‘Zinc’ and ‘Cerium’.
“In recent months, we’ve detected cyberattacks from three nation-state actors targeting seven prominent companies directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for Covid-19,” said Microsoft in a statement.
The targets include leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States.
Microsoft said Strontium “continues to use brute force login attempts” using millions of different passwords.
Zinc has primarily used spear-phishing lures for credential theft, sending messages with fabricated job descriptions pretending to be recruiters.
While Cerium posed as WHO officials to try to trick people into handing over login details.
“The majority of these attacks were blocked by security protections built into our products. We’ve notified all organizations targeted, and where attacks have been successful, we’ve offered help,” said Microsoft.
In the past, Russia has denied targeting vaccine research, and the Russian embassy in Washington told Reuters it had nothing further to add.
North Korea’s representative to the United Nations has not yet commented.
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