Friday 27 November 2020 4:22 pm

Suspected North Korean hackers ‘target’ Covid-19 vaccine maker Astrazeneca

Suspected North Korean hackers are said to have made multiple attempts to hack into the computer systems of British Covid-19 vaccine maker Astrazeneca.

Hackers posed as recruiters on Linkedin and Whatsapp and approached Astrazeneca staff with fake job offers, Reuters reported, citing sources.

Read more: Government urges regulator to approve Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine for emergency supply

They then sent documents purporting to be job descriptions that were teeming with malicious code designed to break into the victim’s computers.

The attacks are said to have targeted a range of employees at the pharma giant, including those working on its Covid-19 vaccine, but are not thought to have been successful.

Astrazeneca has been contacted for comment.

According to the report, the techniques used in the cyber attacks were consistent with an ongoing hacking campaign that US authorities and cyber experts have attributed to North Korea.

The campaign previously focused on defence companies and media organisations, but is said to have shifted its attention to coronavirus-related targets in recent weeks.

The number of cyber attacks has jumped this year as unscrupulous hackers attempt to capitalise on the pandemic.

The National Cyber Security Centre blocked more than 700 major attacks in the year to the end of August, roughly a quarter of which were related to the virus.

But authorities have warned that hostile states are also attempting to access research and information about Covid-19 vaccines as scientists scramble to roll out a cure for the disease.

Read more: Astrazeneca mulling extra vaccine trial to ‘validate’ efficacy after results confusion

The government today formally asked UK medicine regulators to authorise Astrazeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency supply.

The vaccine, developed with Oxford University, has showed an average efficacy of 70 per cent, though questions have since been raised over the accuracy of the figure.