Hackers Reportedly Attacked AstraZeneca, Maker of Covid Vaccine

 Right in the middle of the race to get the first vaccines against COVID-19, one of the main manufacturers would have suffered an attack from computer hackers, coming from North Korea.

Reuters sources claim that British manufacturer AstraZeneca was the victim of a cyberattack attempt in recent weeks, while the company was doing its best to keep up with its main competitors.

The attack would be yet another obstacle for AstraZeneca, which is in a difficult situation after confirming not only that the efficacy of its vaccine is inferior to that of its alternatives, but that its trials were seriously flawed.

Covid vaccines

According to this leak, the attackers used a technique called 'social engineering' to break into the AstraZeneca network; in other words, they did not look for security flaws in the company's systems but instead took advantage of its workers.

Specifically, the attack would be based on creating fake LinkedIn and WhatsApp accounts, with the intention of contacting AstraZeneca looking for work; Once the first obstacle had been overcome, they would have sent files with malicious code, posing them as documents that prove their work experience.

The aim of these attacks was to trick an AstraZeneca worker into downloading and opening the document; The attackers searched for various attack vectors, including employees working directly on COVID-19 studies.

These hackers were supposed to be North Koreans, or hired by the Kim Jong-un government; Although at the moment, its diplomats have not made any statements, the method of the attack and the techniques used have been attributed to North Korea by US investigators.

This is not the first time that a study on COVID-19 has received a cyber attack. Last July, when efforts to obtain a vaccine were in their infancy, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom accused Russian hackers of trying to steal information from studies in these countries.

A few days later, two Chinese nationals were accused by US prosecutors of stealing several 'terabytes' of data related to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Issues for AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a British firm that collaborates with the University of Oxford in the development of a vaccine capable of ending the pandemic that has plagued the planet since the beginning of 2020. However, their efforts seem not to have been as successful as those of Pfizer and Moderna, after revealing that the average efficacy of their vaccine is 70%; much lower than 90% and 95% of its competitors.

While that does not necessarily mean that the AstraZeneca vaccine is worse, the results are in doubt, after errors were confirmed during trials that resulted in a number of volunteers receiving only half a dose of the vaccine. The UK Government has stepped up, asking for more information on the study and its errors.

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