November 18, 2020 12:25
North Korea has hacked South Korean and overseas pharmaceutical companies that are developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments, according to software giant Microsoft. This suggests that the North, which has no capability to develop vaccines, is trying to steal information about them.
Microsoft said it detected cyberattacks from three "nation-state actors" including two North Korean hacking groups dubbed "Zinc" and "Cerium" in recent months. They targeted "seven prominent companies directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for COVID-19."
The seven were "leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States," according to Microsoft vice president Tom Burt.
Burt said most of the targets are companies that have reached the trial stage of their vaccines but did not specify which and what information was targeted.
The hackers used "spear-phishing" emails to break into these companies and steal information. The North Korean hackers pretended to be hiring workers.
"North Korea most likely doesn't have the level of expertise technology and equipment needed to produce a vaccine by themselves. So instead, they rely on stealing information from more technologically and scientifically advanced countries," Jason Bartlett at the Center for a New American Security told Voice of America on Monday.
Meanwhile, North Korean hackers have also attempted to spread malware through a "supply-chain attack" in South Korea "abusing legitimate security software and digital certificates," which are used by government and internet banking websites, according to a report on Monday by ESET, a European Internet security company.
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