S Korea foils N Korea attempt to hack COVID-19 vaccine makers

Parliament member says it was unclear how many and which drugmakers were targeted adding that there was no damage detected.

Advanced economies are in a race to develop, produce and distribute effective vaccine against the coronavirus, as part of their recovery effort following the pandemic [File: Ed Jones/AFP]

South Korea’s intelligence agency foiled North Korean attempts to hack into South Korean companies developing coronavirus vaccines, the News1 agency reported on Friday, citing a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee.

Legislator Ha Tae-keung said after being briefed by the National Intelligence Service the agency did not specify how many and which drugmakers were targeted but said there was no damage from the hacking attempts, News1 said.

There was no immediate response from North Korea to the allegation.

Last week, Microsoft said hackers working for the Russian and North Korean governments had tried to break into the networks of seven pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in South Korea, Canada, France, India and the United States.

Advanced economies are in a race to develop, produce and distribute an effective vaccine against the coronavirus.

The persistent and continuing attacks on coronavirus vaccine research around the world are seen by intelligence officials as an effort to steal intellectual property, rather than disrupt the research itself.

In July, Chinese-backed hackers were also accused of targeting the biotech company Moderna – a leading United States-based coronavirus vaccine research developer – in a bid to steal valuable data. Earlier this month, Moderna said its vaccine had been shown to be 94.5 percent effective in large scale trials.

The attempted hacking in South Korea was revealed as the country grappled with a third wave of the pandemic. On Friday, it reported 569 new cases, the second day in a row that infections have risen by more than 500.

The death rate, however, remains low with one more death reported on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths to 516 – among the lowest in developed nations.

Source: News Agencies