‘Hackers targeting Covid-19 vaccines’
IBM IS sounding the alarm over 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 inoculating the world’s population against the novel coronavirus.
The information technology company said in a blog post published yesterday that it had uncovered “a global phishing campaign” focused on organisations associated with the Covid-19 vaccine “cold chain” – the process needed to keep vaccine doses at extremely cold temperatures as they travel from manufacturers to people’s arms.
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reposted the report, warning members of Operation Warp Speed – the US government’s national vaccine mission – to be on the lookout.
Understanding how to build a secure cold chain is fundamental to distributing vaccines developed by the likes of Pfizer and BioNTech because the shots need to be stored at -70°C or below to avoid spoiling.
IBM’s cybersecurity unit said it had detected an advanced group of hackers working to gather information about different aspects of the cold chain, using meticulously crafted booby-trapped emails sent in the name of an executive with Haier Biomedical, a Chinese cold chain provider that specialises in vaccine transport and biological sample storage.
The hackers went through “an exceptional amount of effort”, said IBM analyst Claire Zaboeva, who helped draft the report. Hackers researched the correct make, model, and pricing of various Haier refrigeration units, Zaboeva said.
IBM said the bogus Haier emails were sent to around 10 different organisations but only identified one target by name: the European Commission’s directorate-general for Taxation and Customs Union, which handles tax and customs issues across the EU and has helped set rules on the import of vaccines.
IBM said other targets included companies involved in the manufacture of solar panels, which are used to power vaccine refrigerators in warm countries, and petrochemical products that could be used to derive dry ice. Who is behind the vaccine supply chain espionage isn’t clear. |