North Korea accused of hacking Pfizer to obtain vaccine data


Information about the vaccines being developed to contain the pandemic has been among the main cybercrime targets for months, in many cases, apparently sponsored by antagonistic nation-states. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea has warned that the North Korean authorities have tried to carry out a cyberattack against Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical company. Its purpose was to obtain data on developing a vaccine against Covid-19 and a possible treatment. Several deputies provided the information.

Kim Jong Un, the leader of the communist regime, has insisted that North Korea does not have registered coronavirus cases in its territory. The country has been isolated since it closed its borders in January to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

However, the closure of the borders has increased pressure on its already ailing economy, which has to face numerous sanctions at the international level.

Ha Tae Keung, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, explained that Pyongyang would have tried to “obtain technology related to the treatment and vaccine against COVID-19 by using cyber warfare tools to hack Pfizer.

What motivates cybercriminals to carry out an attack?

This is not the first time a nation-state has been blamed for stealing information on possible remedies against the virus or hindering its development. Last December, the Security X-Force group of the technology company IBM notified a campaign of ‘phishing’ attacks against European organizations associated with the Covid-19 cold chain. It is a component of the vaccine supply chain that guarantees its conservation in controlled temperature environments during storage and transport. After manufacture, the coronavirus vaccine has to go through a tangled network of freezing, storage, shipping, and distribution to guarantee its quality.

The company pointed out that this case had the potential hallmarks of an action sponsored by the state.

The objectives of these attacks are often not very clear. When a group of cybercriminals carries out an attack, the most common thing is that they look for money. However, when there are states behind it, it is more difficult to understand the motivations.

Igor Unanue, head of technology at the cybersecurity company S21Sec, recently explained his attitude towards such activities. According to him, the first thing that comes to mind, especially now when several laboratories are trying to develop vaccines, is spying. In turn, the expert pointed out that it is very challenging to demonstrate the countries’ sponsorship behind these attacks.

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