Hackers target critical companies for COVID-19 vaccine distribution: IBM

IBM is sounding the alarm about hackers targeting companies critical to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, a sign that digital spies are turning their attention to the complex logistical work involved in vaccinating the world’s population against the new coronavirus.

The information technology company said in a blog post posted Thursday that it had uncovered “a global phishing campaign” targeting organizations associated with the COVID-19 Vaccine “cold chain”, the process necessary to keep vaccine doses at extremely cold temperatures as they travel from manufacturers to people’s arms.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Agency republished the report, warning members of Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s national vaccine mission, to be vigilant.

Understanding how to build a safe cold chain is critical to distributing vaccines developed by companies like Pfizer and BioNTech because injections must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below to prevent spoilage.

From IBM The cybersecurity unit said it had spotted an advanced group of hackers working to gather information on different aspects of the cold chain, using meticulously booby-trapped emails sent on behalf of an executive at Haier Biomedical, a Chinese provider. cold chain that specializes in vaccines. transport and storage of biological samples.

The hackers made “an exceptional effort,” said IBM analyst Claire Zaboeva, who helped write the report. The hackers investigated the correct make, model and price of various Haier refrigeration units, Zaboeva said.

“Whoever organized this campaign was intimately aware of the products involved in the supply chain to deliver a vaccine for a global pandemic,” he said.

Haier Medical did not reply to messages seeking comment.

Messages sent to the email addresses used by the hackers were not returned.

IBM said Haier’s bogus emails were sent to around 10 different organizations, but they only identified one target by name: the European Commission’s Directorate General for Tax and Customs Union, which handles tax and customs matters across the EU. and has helped establish import rules. of vaccines.

Representatives of the general management could not immediately be reached for comment.

IBM said other targets included companies involved in making solar panels, which are used to power vaccine refrigerators in hot countries, and petrochemicals that could be used to make dry ice.

It is unclear who is behind the spy campaign of the vaccine supply chain.

Reuters has previously documented how hackers linked to Iran, Vietnam, North Korea, South Korea, China and Russia have been accused on separate occasions by cybersecurity experts or government officials of attempting to steal information about the virus and its potential treatments.

IBM’s Zaboeva said there was no shortage of possible suspects. Finding out how to quickly distribute an economy-saving vaccine “should top the charts of nation states around the world,” he said.

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