UK and its allies accused Russian intelligence services on Thursday of attempting to steal information on the development of COVID-19 vaccines through “irresponsible cyberattacks.”
The government-run National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said a group known as “APT29”, Cozy Bear and The Dukes had targeted organisations developing vaccines in Britain, the U.S. and Canada.
The cyberattacks were “highly likely [carried out] with the intention of stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of Covid-19 vaccines,” the NCSC said.
It said APT29 hackers “almost certainly operate as part of Russian intelligence services.”
The attacks have used custom malware known as WellMess and WellMail to target the vaccine researchers amid a longer term “campaign of malicious activity” against government offices, health-care and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property, it said.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“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,” Raab said.
“The UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyberattacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account.”