Britain, the United States and Canada accused Russia on Thursday of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
The three nations alleged that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and said to be part of the Russian intelligence service, is attacking academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre made the announcement, which was coordinated with authorities in the US and Canada.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement, as reported by Al Jazeera.
“While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”
The persistent and continuing attacks are seen by intelligence officials as an effort to steal intellectual property, rather than to disrupt research. The campaign of “malicious activity” is ongoing and includes attacks “predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets,” the National Cyber Security Centre said in a statement.
It was unclear whether any information was stolen but the centre says individuals’ confidential information is not believed to have been compromised.
Moscow rejected the allegations. “We have no information on who could have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centres in Britain,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the TASS news agency. “We can only say this: Russia has nothing to do with these attempts.”