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Tech & Science Vaccine against Covid-19, a priority issue for hackers

15:00  25 november  2020
15:00  25 november  2020 Source:   challenges.fr

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UK National Cyber Security Centre says drug firms and research groups being targeted by group known as APT29.

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Vaccin © AFP - JOEL SAGET Vaccine In recent months, several laboratories developing a vaccine for Covid-19 have been the subject of computer attacks. Several countries such as Russia, China and North Korea have been singled out.

It is a battlefield where blows are raining everywhere. "The absolute priority of the moment for hackers, whether they are cybercriminals or affiliated with States" adds the security director of a CAC40 group. Since this summer, we have in fact no longer counted the cyber attacks that have targeted many laboratories trying to develop a vaccine against Covid-19. Latest episode to date: the American giant Microsoft revealed on November 13 computer attacks emanating from Russian and North Korean "state or para-state" entities against pharmaceutical groups in the vaccine race.

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"In recent months, we have detected cyber attacks from three groups (...) targeting seven leading companies directly involved in the search for vaccines and treatment against Covid-19", said the vice president of Microsoft in charge of security, Tom Burt. For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov replied on November 17, that these accusations "have already become a standard of life, a kind of political mode obeyed among others by technology companies. information in the United States ".

Russian hackers singled out

Microsoft, which did not name the targeted laboratories, however claims that they are "leading pharmaceutical groups and research centers in Canada, France, India, Korea. South and the United States ". Is the tricolor giant Sanofi, , which is developing a vaccine candidate in partnership with the British GSK , one of the victims? "We did not see any attack" answers a relative of the group. When contacted, the Institut Pasteur , which is working on several vaccine projects, did not wish to answer our questions.

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Beyond the two North Korean groups, called "Zinc" and "Cerium", cited by Microsoft, it is especially the attribution of attacks, by the American firm, to Strontium which agitated the medium of cybersecurity. This Russian group, has already been accused by Microsoft of attacking more than 200 organizations involved in the 2020 US presidential election. It is also known as "Fancy Bear", "APT28" or "Sednit" and has already been associated with the massive attacks targeting the United States before the 2016 elections. According to the FBI and the American justice system, these hackers are very close to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. "It is an old group, which relies on significant financial resources, which allows it to develop its capacities" specifies a French expert in cybersecurity close to the world of intelligence.

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"A real struggle for influence"

Russia was already indicted this summer when London claimed that the hacker group APT29, known to be close to the FSB, the Russian domestic intelligence service, had carried out raids against research centers working on vaccines. "It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services target those who fight against the pandemic linked to the coronavirus," Dominic Raab, the British foreign minister, said at the time. According to the UK's National Cyber ​​Security Agency (NCSC), the victims were targeted by hacker group APT29 - also known as Cozy Bear - with "almost certain" links to Russian intelligence services.

In addition to Russia and North Korea, China is also regularly singled out. In July, the FBI indicted two Chinese for having carried out, in cooperation with their government, several computer attacks against Californian companies engaged in the search for vaccines for Covid-19. The American biotech Moderna Therapeutics, which is at the origin of the first experimental vaccine against Covid-19, was notably affected as announced by the United States. In response, Beijing accused Washington of "defamation". "We are witnessing a real struggle for influence in which the various intelligence services are very active," observes the cybersecurity expert cited above. "Hackers also benefit from the fact that laboratories are not always well secured and this is even truer for biotechs" adds Thierry Delville, partner at the PwC cabinet and former ministerial delegate for security industries and the fight against cyberthreats. Since the onset of the health crisis, the greater use of telework has also offered new entry points for attackers.

Biden will leave decision about who gets the coronavirus vaccine first up to public health experts and scientists, his COVID-19 advisor says .
Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech filed for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine with the Food and Drug Administration. Once a vaccine is authorised, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will go through the information on the vaccine and vote on whether to "recommend the vaccine and, if so, who should receive it.""That's where it gets a bit more political and, frankly, this is where the President-elect is leaving it to the public health experts and scientists to figure out how best to allocate the limited supply first," Gounder told CNN.

usr: 1
This is interesting!