North Korean hackers have targeted six pharmaceutical companies developing a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K., the U.S., and South Korea to steal sensitive information and sell it to the highest bidder, according to the Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter,
Cybersecurity officials found that North Korean operatives conducting the attacks are part of a group called “Kimsuky,” which specializes in stealing intelligence secrets from the U.S. and its closest allies in Asia, such as Japan and South Korea.
The targeted companies include U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson and Novavax as well as South Korean companies Genexine, Shin Poong Pharmaceutical, and Celltrion, to name a few examples.
U.K. pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, which has developed a vaccine with 90% effectiveness, was also targeted according to Reuters. Currently, it is unknown whether North Korea gained access to useful information in its hacking attempts.
Both Shin Poong and Celltrion have confirmed they were indeed attacked, but zero damage has been detected. One Celltrion spokesman has said the frequency of attacks increased in the second half of 2020.