Britain accused Russia of trying to steal data on the COVID-19 vaccine

UK authorities have accused Russian intelligence of trying to steal data on the development of a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The national cybersecurity center of the United Kingdom (NCSC) reported.

“Russian hackers attacked organizations engaged in creating a vaccine for coronavirus,” the report says.

According to it, several institutions in some countries were subjected to cyber-attacks. The NCSC declined to list the names and number of attacked institutions for security reasons. They only clarified that organizations from Britain, the United States, and Canada were attacked. The attacks used various tools and methods, including phishing and custom malware, known as WellMess and WellMail.

According to the British side, the hacker group APT29, which is “almost certainly” controlled by Russian intelligence, is responsible for the attempt to steal data. This group is also called Cozy Bear or The Dukes, according to London.

This hacker group, according to the NCSC, specializes in attacks on government, diplomatic, analytical, medical, and energy facilities, the purpose of which is to steal “valuable intellectual property.”

“We condemn these heinous attacks on those who are doing vital work to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Working with allies, NCSC is committed to protecting the most important assets, and at this time, our top priority is to protect the health sector,” the statement said.

The attack by Russian hackers was also reported by the Canadian communications security center (an unusual service subordinate to the Ministry of national defense, which is responsible for external electronic intelligence). According to his version, the APT29 group is behind the attacks.

“These malicious cyber-attacks were most likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property related to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines,” the report said.

In 2018, the cybersecurity firm FireEye, citing Dutch intelligence, reported that the APT29 group works for the Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR). In November 2018, she was accused of sending infected emails on behalf of US State Department employees.

The Kremlin’s Reaction

The Kremlin does not have information about who could try to hack British pharmaceutical companies, and Russia’s accusations of trying to interfere in the parliamentary elections in the UK in 2019 are unfounded. This was stated by the Press Secretary of the President of Russia, Dmitry Peskov.
“We can say one thing — Russia has nothing to do with these attempts,” Peskov said. According to him, Moscow does not accept such accusations, “as well as the next unfounded accusations of interference in the 2019 elections.”