Microsoft is currently facing hackers and cyberattacks from Russia and North Korea targeting Coronavirus vaccine makers. These Russian and NK hackers targeted pharmaceutical companies all over the globe in attempts to extract every sensitive information they could get their hands on about the vaccine.
When Did The Attacks Start?
Microsoft released a statement saying the hacker attacks began last Friday, November 13. Involving seven different companies from France, India, Canada, South Korea, and the United States. Microsoft was able to block most of the hacking attempts. However, some did get through successfully. The company names are not public information for privacy and security purposes.
Tom Burt, chief of customer security and trust at Microsoft, implored condemnation worldwide and stated that such breaches of privacy are in no way acceptable. Moreover, these hacking groups are unforgivable. Their attempts are direct attacks on what should be seen as overall humanity safety. As they seemingly aim to slow the battle against COVID-19.
Who Are These Russian And NK Hackers?
There are two main groups that are suspects in this case. The first group being the Russian organization Strontium otherwise known as Fancy Bear. This group used password spraying attacks, most commonly known as brute force break-ins. They are also known as being the ones that also attempted to proliferate disinformation during the 2016 election, thus trying to sway the results during the last presidential US election. Furthermore, they’re also responsible for other high-profile cyber cases usually targeting corporate businesses and media outlets.
Additionally, the second group is from North Korea. Identified by Microsoft as the Cerium and primarily uses spearphishing emails as a way into the companies systems. These emails pretend that they’re from the World Health Organization, claiming they wish to collaborate for beating the virus quicker. They look so legitimate that some victims end up disclosing information about vaccine development and the proceedings of the tests.
The FBI and Homeland Security already foreshadowed these attacks from hackers. Earlier this year, they said that cyber-criminals will try to launch malicious attacks. With the end-goal of stealing valuable COVID-19 vaccine researches.
A Global Battle To End It
There’s no way of knowing if the attacks have stopped or are still ongoing and for how long. Global leaders urge different corporations to stay vigilant and attentive to such attempts as well as briefing their teams and staff to avoid such occurring and reduce human errors and failure that would ease the tasks of hackers. Brad Smith, the Microsoft president, has urged different government units all over the world to stay vigilant. They should unanimously offer more protection to the healthcare industry in order to protect the efforts of a quick coronavirus vaccine development and release that would finally help the situation to get back to normal. The healthcare companies, particularly research and pharmaceutical corporations, are particularly vulnerable at this time. Moreover, they are developing a vaccine that can potentially end the pandemic in the short to mid-term.
Moreover, such crucial pieces of information are highly valuable to these hackers. The data collected are auction items to the highest bidders on the black market and for other foreign government health agencies and services. Indeed, other nations or private corporations can join in the race to find the cure and get the benefits to be the first to put it out on the market. Additionally, this will lead to problems like vaccine monopoly and political manipulation from whomever gets the vaccine first.
Finally, Tom Burt also adds that the protection laws shouldn’t only be enacted once the attack already happened. They should be upheld as preemptive measures. And therefore, government agencies should keep out a closer look at the origins of these attacks to combat the issue at its roots.
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