Six months ago at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, cyber-attacks on medical researches and hospitals increased and while that still continued, the recent threat is the fact that hackers are reportedly looking to steal information on the vaccines for COVID-19 as they aim their targets at distributors and suppliers according to researchers in a report released on Thursday
The report came from the IBM’s X-Force team detailed a global hacking campaign which was targeted at government agencies, tech companies as well as energy suppliers in developed countries like Germany, Italy, Taiwan and South Korea.
The companies and agencies are said to all be connected to the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform which is a partnership between UNICED, the vaccine alliance Gavi and a number of organizations tasked with the successful distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
targeting government agencies, tech companies and energy suppliers in countries like Germany, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan. The companies and agencies are all connected to the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform, a partnership between UNICEF, the vaccine alliance Gavi and other organizations to help with vaccine distribution.
The attackers are reported to always disguise by sending pretensive emails to be from one Haier Biomedical, a Chinese company which says its the world’s only complete cold chain provider. And do not forget that the cold chain is a really important part of the Pfizer’s vaccine rollout with the vaccines needing to be stored at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit).
And as for the Haier Biomedical, the company is working with CCEOP, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) in order to help the COVID-19 vaccine’s rollout. The hackers on the other hand are now sending out emails to their targets requesting for price quotes according to the IBM’s researchers.
Haier Biomedical didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Within the email are malicious attachment which would request whoever open it to enter their password in order to view the files and when they do, their data get stolen. But so far, it’s unclear whether the attacks were successful or not but the main purpose of the attack was to gain information which can be used for future attacks according to the IBM researchers.
“Moving laterally through networks and remaining there in stealth would allow them to conduct cyber espionage and collect additional confidential information from the victim environments for future operations,” said Claire Zaboeva, a cyberthreat analyst at IBM’s X-Force and co-author of the report.
The hackers are aiming at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Custom Union which is the main organization that would be in touch with numerous countries and that could open the pathways for a more targeted attacks.
Aside the EU panel, these hackers also sent email messages that includes malware to companies that makes solar panels. These companies provides power for cold storage containers in countries with little to no access to electricity. They also send these malware-ridden email to IT companies in South Korea and Germany that backs pharmaceutical manufacturers.
“A breach within any part of this global alliance could result in the exposure of numerous partner computing environments worldwide,” IBM’s researchers said.
Although the report didn’t exactly mention those behind these attacks, they suggested that this is a state-sponsored due to the sophistication of the hacking campaign. Countries like China, Russia and North Korea have been accused of launching cyberattacks against pharmaceutical companies that have been developing the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that North Korean hackers have targeted at least six pharmaceutical companies in the US, UK and South Korea that have been working on vaccines.
So with the war against the Coronavirus constantly changing in dynamics, the war against cyberattacks also continues as the UK government has approved the use of the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine next week while the likes of Moderna and AstraZeneca have also developed a highly effective vaccine which awaits approval before starting mass production.
For more information about the Coronavirus, please visit the WHO website.