Suspicious North Korean hackers have reportedly attempted to break into the systems of AstraZeneca, one of three Western drug companies that claim to have developed a successful coronavirus vaccine.
The hackers posed as recruiter on LinkedIn and WhatsApp to target AstraZeneca employees with fake job offers, two knowledgeable people told Reuters.
They then sent documents that were supposed to be job descriptions that were actually badly coded to gain access to the employees’ computer systems, the intelligence service said.
The hackers targeted a “broad group of people” – including those working on the British company’s controversial COVID-19 vaccine, the report said.
So far, they are not believed to have successfully gained access, the point of sale sources said.
The tools and techniques used suggested they were part of an ongoing hacking campaign that US officials and cybersecurity researchers have attributed to North Korea, the sources claimed, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public information.
However, some of the accounts used for AstraZeneca employees were registered to Russian email addresses – which sources say was most likely an attempt to mislead investigators.
It comes after South Korean officials also accused the Hermit Kingdom of attempting to hack its systems in order to steal information about possible vaccines.
North Korea has been blamed by US prosecutors for some of the world’s most damaging cyberattacks, including the hacking and leakage of Sony Pictures emails in 2014, the theft of $ 81 million by the Central Bank of Bangladesh in 2016, and the release of the Wannacry ransomware virus 2017.
According to three people who investigated the attacks, the hackers have been focusing on COVID-related targets for the past few weeks.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva did not respond to a request for comment.
The government of Kim Jong Un, which has no direct contact for foreign media, has previously refused to carry out cyber attacks.
AstraZeneca declined to comment.
The British pharmaceutical company, together with Pfizer and Moderna, announced successful trial results for its coronavirus vaccine last week. However, he has announced that amid an uproar over his methods, he will be subject to further testing.
An avowed “mistake” in dosing means that the most successful results were achieved in a group of only 2,741 volunteers, all under 55, which means that success may be due to their relative youth.
“Now that we’ve figured out what looks like better effectiveness, we need to validate it. So we need to do an additional study,” Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer, told Bloomberg News.
With postal wires