Britain: North Korean hackers try to attack company developing COVID-19 vaccine 

According to anonymous sources, the attackers posed as recruiters on social networks and sent company staff fake job offers that included malicious code. The attack focused on staff working on development of a coronavirus vaccine 

Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

North Korean hackers are suspected of trying to breach the networks of British medicine manufacturer AstraZeneca during the last few weeks. According to anonymous sources that spoke with Reuters, the hackers posed as recruiters on LinkedIn and WhatsApp and sent the company's workers fake job offers. Afterwards, they sent documents purported to be job descriptions, but actually contained malicious code intended to gain access to the company's computers.   

According to the report, it appears that the attempts by the hackers failed. They tried to aim for a "broad set of people", including staff working on development of a coronavirus vaccine. The sources said that the techniques used by the hackers are the same kind used in a series of attacks that cyber experts have attributed to North Korea. Earlier, the attempts at sabotage focused on defense companies and media organizations, but in recent weeks the focus shifted to targets connected to development of a vaccine for the virus. The sources also said that some of the e-mail accounts that the hackers used were Russian, in a potential attempt to mislead investigators. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a surge in attempts by hackers around the world to breach the systems of medicine companies, hospitals, health systems and vaccine scientists. There was no comment from AstraZeneca, which is currently about to carry out another trial of a vaccine after it was revealed that there was a mistake in its first trial.