A Cybercriminal

Cyberattackers trying to disrupt distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine: Experts

*Researchers reason the main goal may be to interfere with vaccine distribution, or to use ransomware to essentially hold the vaccines hostage until they are paid off to let go of their grip on the distribution network

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As emerging COVID-19 vaccine makers are warming up for emergency authorisation for production, while planning strategies for immediate distribution to inoculate people against the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, IBM’s cybersecurity division X-Force has discovered that a string of cyberattacks has been launched targeting the companies and governmental organisations distributing the vaccines.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says the attacks are centered on the vaccine distribution network’s “cold chain,” a key component in delivering the vaccine at safe temperatures to consumers.

In identifying the identity of the cybercriminals behind the attacks, experts expressed doubt that the attacks came from China, which has been already implicated for trying to steal vaccine information from universities, hospitals, and medical researchers, ‘The New York Times’ report said.

It was gathered if China is out, that leaves Russia and North Korea as the next best bets behind the attacks, according to report.

Earlier, Microsoft security engineers found that hackers from both countries attacked COVID-19 vaccine makers hoping to disrupt the vaccine’s path.

IBM-X researchers, however, concluded that it’s likely that the adversary is intimately aware of critical components and participants of the cold chain.

The likely targets in that chain include everyone from solar panel manufacturers to petrochemical manufacturers responsible for the production of dry ice, a key element of the cold chain.

Homeland Security says the attackers’ M.O. is to impersonate a biomedical company and send phishing e-mails to corporate executives and global organisations involved in vaccine storage and transport.

Vaccines Cold Storage

The sum and substance of those e-mails is couched as requests for quotations for participation in a vaccine programme, but the real intent is to try to obtain the account credentials of the recipients.

But what do the cyberattackers want? Knowing exactly what the attackers want is difficult, report noted.

They may be trying to steal the technology used to move large amounts of a vaccine across long distances at the low temperatures they require. If that’s the case, it’s nothing more than intellectual property theft.

However, the Times reports that some cybersecurity experts suspect something more sinister in this regard.

They think the main goal may be to interfere with vaccine distribution or to use ransomware to essentially hold the vaccines hostage until they’re paid off to let go of their grip on the distribution network.

One analyst said the ransomware theory is solid.

James Lewis, who runs the cybersecurity programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: “There is no intelligence advantage in spying on a refrigerator.

“My suspicion is that they are setting up for a ransomware play. But we won’t know how these stolen credentials will be used until after the vaccine distribution begins.”

Kindly Share This Story