Russian hackers target Covid-19 vaccine research, UK agency warns

16 July 2020, 14:14

Hackers are said to be trying to access vaccine research
Hackers are said to be trying to access vaccine research. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Hackers linked to the Russian intelligence agencies are targeting British scientists seeking to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned.

In a joint statement with the US National Security Agency and the Canadian Communication Security Establishment, the NCSC said the attacks were part of a global campaign by the group known as APT29 to steal the secrets of vaccine research.

NCSC director of operations Paul Chichester said: "We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

"Working with our allies, the NCSC is committed to protecting our most critical assets and our top priority at this time is to protect the health sector.

"We would urge organisations to familiarise themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks."

According to reports, the hackers are part of the APT29 group and are also known as “the Dukes” and “Cozy Bear” and were implicated in the hacks against the Democrats in 2016.

The UK is home to two of the leading research programmes to develop a vaccine based at Oxford University and Imperial College London.

Oxford University is currently looking at developing a vaccine
Oxford University is currently looking at developing a vaccine. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson said: "The attacks which are taking place against scientists and others doing vital work to combat coronavirus are despicable.

"Working with our allies, we will call out those who seek to do us harm in cyber space and hold them to account."

Dominic Raab has condemned the activities of hackers targeting cyber attacks on organisations seeking to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The Foreign Secretary said: "It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

"While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.

"The UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyber attacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account."

The Russian Embassy in London warned that that "any unfriendly actions" will "not be left without a proper and adequate response", and denied Russia had targeted efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

"We have also taken note of the Foreign Secretary's suggestion that the UK Government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future," a statement said.

"In this regard, we would like to state once again that any unfriendly actions against Russia will not be left without a proper and adequate response."

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