#Canada; #UK; #US; #Russia; #CyberAttack; #Covid19Research
Ottawa, Jul 16 (Canadian-Media): COVID-19-related vaccine research in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. had been at the risk of being stolen by a Russian-backed hacker group, according to intelligence agencies in all three countries, media reports said.
Covid19 Vaccine Research. Facebook Page
APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and the Dukes, is reported to be behind the malicious activity, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), responsible for Canada's foreign signals intelligence, said.
The group was accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 U.S. election.
A number of organizations across the globe have been attacked during the pandemic by the Russian actors by using custom malware known as WellMess and WellMail, the three targeted countries Canada, the UK, and the US said.
Britain's National Cyber Security Centre's head, Paul Chichester, said the allies "condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic."
Cyber attack. Image credit: Twitter handle
CSE released a statement July 16 morning in co-ordination with its international counterparts, which said that the group "almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services," an allegation the Kremlin immediately denied.
"These malicious cyber activities were very likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines, and serve to hinder response efforts at a time when health care experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic," the CSE statement says.
Image credit: Twitter Handle
When CSE was asked if the malicious hits were successful and which facilities in Canada were targeted, CSE spokesman refused to comment or confirm details about specific cybersecurity incidents.
In response to inquiries by CBC, Evan Koronewski, CSE spokesperson pointed to a recent threat bulletin that reported a Canadian biopharmaceutical company was compromised by a foreign cyber threat actor back in mid-April.
CSE said that investigations during May was in progress by the authorities, when discrepancies of possible security breaches were witnessed at Canadian organizations doing COVID-19-related research but did not say who was behind the attacks or where they were coming from.
Ever since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, CSE had been warning that Canadian intellectual property linked to the pandemic is a "valuable target" for state-sponsored actors.
The Russian news agency RIA said Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations, said these were not backed up by proper evidence.