Russia Accused of Stealing Western Coronavirus Research

By Jamie Dettmer | VOA News |

VOA FILE – A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

U.S., British and Canadian officials accused the Kremlin Thursday of being behind a massive and ongoing cyber hack aimed at stealing from Western pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions doing research into coronavirus vaccines and treatment therapies.

In a joint statement, the governments of all three countries said the hacking operation started in February and has been unrelenting since.

Britain’s National Cybersecurity Center, part of the country’s eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, issued the statement, which was coordinated with counterparts in the U.S. and Canada. Officials identified the Russian hacking group APT29, also nicknamed Cozy Bear, as being behind the hacks.

“APT29 has a long history of targeting governmental, diplomatic, think tank, health care and energy organizations for intelligence gain, so we encourage everyone to take this threat seriously and apply the mitigations issued in the advisory,” Anne Neuberger, cybersecurity director at the U.S.’s National Security Agency, said in a statement.

Paul Chichester, the National Cybersecurity Center’s director of operations, said, “We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic.”

Chichester said the Cozy Bear group “almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services.”

All three Western allies are working to try to protect coronavirus-related research and are issuing new cybersecurity advice to pharmaceutical firms, universities and other research institutes.

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