State-sponsored hackers from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are engaged in concerted attempts to steal coronavirus vaccine secrets in what security experts describe as “an intellectual property war”.
They accuse hostile-state hackers of trying to obtain trial results early and seize sensitive information about drug mass production, at a time when a range of vaccines are close to being approved for the public.
Previously the hackers’ primary intention was to steal the secrets behind the design of a vaccine, with hundreds of drug companies, research labs and health organisations from around the world targeted at any one time.
The cyber struggle involves western intelligence agencies, including Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, who say they are committed to protecting “our most critical assets”. But they discuss only a fraction of their work in public.
Instead they work behind the scenes with drug companies, research labs and cybersecurity specialists, who are more easily able to describe the everyday hacking attempts in what amounts to a worldwide battle.
Adam Meyers, the senior vice-president, intelligence at the IT security specialists Crowdstrike, said countries including Russia and China had been engaged in hacking western companies and agencies “for the past 20 years”, but since March had “become focused on one topic”, referring to Covid-19.
“What you are seeing here is the latest stage in a long-running intellectual property war, but one where there is much more at stake to those involved. This has become a matter of national pride – who can develop vaccines first”.…