Russia Accused of Stealing Vaccine Information, Days after Announcing Major Breakthrough

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SWITZERLAND, JULY 16 – Hackers backed by the Russian government are attempting to steal information from researchers and pharmaceutical companies racing to find a COVID-19 vaccine, Britain, the United States and Canada alleged on Thursday. 

Russia had announced a few days ago, that the first coronavirus vaccine may be ready by August after a medical university in Moscow said it completed clinical trials using human volunteers.

Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre said the hackers were “almost certainly” connected to Russia’s intelligence services. Britain made the announcement in coordination with authorities in the U.S. and Canada.

The three nations alleged that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, is attacking academic and drug research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development. The announcement did not specify which institutions and companies had been targeted or whether any vaccine information had been stolen.  

“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,″ Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement. “While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behavior, the U.K. and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”

The National Cybersecurity Centre said that it had detected a prolonged campaign of “malicious activity” from Russia-backed hackers that includes attacks “predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets.”

The statement from the National Cybersecurity Centre did not say whether Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about the vaccine research hacking.

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