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Canada vaccine research on COVID-19 targeted by a cyber-attack from Russia

by Cédric Ayisa - July 17, 2020   683 Views   3 min
Canada vaccine research on COVID-19 targeted by a cyber-attack from Russia

Claim

Russian group targeted COVID-19 vaccine research in Canada, U.S. and U.K., say intelligence agencies

Verdict

Accurate as a whole (with reservations)

On July 16, 2020, the CBC news service announced that scientific research on COVID-19 in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States had been targeted by a cyber-attack organized by a group of Russian hackers. This information is accurate, with reservations.

The source of the cyber attack

In the field of cybersecurity, it’s often difficult to be 100% certain of the source of a cyber-attack. In the case of the claim to be fact-checked, we’re certain that an attack has taken place, hence our verdict of “accurate”. The Canadian government states that it’s almost certain (95% probability) that this attack was carried out by a group of Russian hackers - hence our reservation.

In a joint statement with UK and American security services, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) of Canada and its Cyber Security Establishment denounced the group of Russian hackers known as "APT29" or "Dukes" or "Coxy Bear". In its statement, the CSE stated that the group "almost certainly (95%+ probability) conducted this cyber activity on behalf of Russia's intelligence services".

Statements that concur

In a document published by the UK Cyber Security Agency explaining the tactics, techniques and procedures of the cybercriminals, it’s stated that the cybercriminals used malware called "WellMess" and "WellMail" to possibly (80-90% probability) attack several organizations involved in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.

Following intelligence from the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, and the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, together stated that it’s "important to defend our own healthcare organizations, national interests, and those of our allies, the United Kingdom and the United States, from malicious state actors attempting to steal our information and intellectual property".

For its part, the British government, through Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said it was "completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic". He added that "the UK will continue to counter those conducting such cyber-attacks, and work with our allies to hold perpetrators to account".

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has also issued a statement on the cyber-attack. It emphasized the need to combat such threats.

The cyber-attack, which was aimed at retrieving scientific information related to the fight against COVID-19, did take place. The authorities of the three countries targeted confirmed Russia's involvement in the cyber-attack. This allows us to say that the CBC's assertion is accurate, with the reservation made earlier.

The pandemic and the cyber threat

Already in March, the Centre for Cyber Security was warning Canadian health agencies and research centres about the risk of exposure to cyber threats posed by the pandemic. The Centre recommended that professionals take cyber defence, phishing prevention and enhanced security measures for servers and critical systems. These measures help protect data that is available for the fight against COVID-19 or that will be used to find effective treatments against the virus.

The cyber threat goes further

Since the beginning of the crisis, individuals have been trying to take advantage of the uncertainty and anguish of the population to flood cyberspace with misinformation and disinformation. In addition, attempts at phishing and fraud have also gained ground.

What can we do to protect ourselves?

Several resources exist to fight cyber-attacks and fraud attempts. It’s recommended to:

- Beware of unsolicited emails and text messages

- Beware of deception

- Not give anyone access to your work accounts and others

- Ensure the security of your Internet network, especially if you work from home.

- Keep your data in secure locations

- Not click on any suspicious link, even if a treatment or solution to COVID-19 is touted, for example

For more information, you can look here (Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity).

Our goal is to provide you with fact checks that are as accurate as and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed crucial information, please CONTACT US.

  Claim

CBC

Organization
Russian group targeted COVID-19 vaccine research in Canada, U.S. and U.K., say intelligence agencies

Verdict:

Accurate as a whole (with reservations)

 July 17, 2020


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