U.S., UK Warn Against State-Backed Hackers Targeting COVID-19 Responders
We’re already witnessing hack attacks on a rise amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Hackers are leveraging the sensitive COVID-19 situation and there have been several instances reported of these hack attacks.
Recently, the cybersecurity groups in Britain and the US revealed that Government-backed hackers are attacking healthcare and research institutions. The main goal with these attacks is to steal personal and valuable information around efforts being led to mitigate the Coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) revealed in a statement that hackers are targeting pharmaceutical companies, research organisations and local governments. Both the cybersecurity groups haven’t mentioned which countries are responsible for these hacking attacks.
However, as per the report, US and the UK officials said that there have been hacking attempts by suspected hackers from China and Iran. Certain Russia-linked activity was also tracked.
According to the NCSC and CISA, the state hacking groups “frequently target organisations in order to collect bulk personal information, intellectual property and intelligence that aligns with national priorities”. They added “actors may seek to obtain intelligence on national and international healthcare policy or acquire sensitive data on COVID-19 related research.
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz also revealed last month in an online panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute that foreign government hackers are breaking into companies conducting research around treatments for COVID-19. It revealed that state-backed hackers mostly target the biopharmaceutical industry.
Institutions and research organizations who are working towards COVID-19 treatments and vaccines are touting their work publicly but have also become vulnerable to hack attacks. “The sad flipside is that it kind of makes them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have.”
There have also been other hacking attempts around the Coronavirus pandemic. Last month, almost 25,000 email addresses and passwords belonging to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Gates Foundation among others had been hacked. Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), a British company that’s currently focusing on medical trials on any COVID-19 vaccine was also attacked by the Maze ransomware group in March.
Moreover, hackers are also selling their malware and other exploitation tools at a discounted rate on the dark web using discount codes based around Coronavirus pandemic including – “COVID-19” and “Coronavirus”.