Microsoft said on Friday: that three piracy groups linked to the Russian and North Korean governments have targeted more than six organizations involved in treating the Corona virus and vaccine research around the world in recent months, and some of their attacks have succeeded.
The software company explained that a Russian hacker group usually called Fancy Bear or Strontium – with North Korean actors called Lazarus and Cerium – has been involved in recent attempts to break into the networks of seven pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States.
Microsoft’s alert deepens the range of warnings from government agencies and cybersecurity companies, as hackers from some US foes in cyberspace work hard to infiltrate others’ vaccine research.
Microsoft said: The majority of the targets were from organizations that were testing Corona virus vaccines, and added that most of the break-in attempts had failed, but an unspecified number succeeded.
Microsoft provided few more details, notified all affected and offered assistance to the victims, but declined to name the target organizations, or provide an accurate timeline or description of the attempted break-in.
The Russian Embassy in Washington – which has repeatedly opposed allegations of Russia’s involvement in digital espionage – said in an email that there was nothing we could add, while Pyongyang had previously denied engaging in piracy abroad.
The allegations of cyber espionage come at a time when world powers are racing behind the scenes in a race to produce a vaccine for the virus.
The announcement highlights how Microsoft is pushing for a new set of global rules that prohibit digital interventions targeting healthcare providers.
“The timing of the announcement coincided with the appearance of Microsoft President (Brad Smith) at the hypothetical Paris Peace Forum,” (Tom Burt), Microsoft Vice President for Customer Security and Trust, said in a blog post.
The Microsoft chief called on world leaders to assert that international law protects healthcare facilities and to take measures to implement the law.
He said: We believe that the law should be applied in relation to attacks from government agencies and criminal groups that governments allow to operate from within their borders.