An ongoing cyber attack is revealed, on the same day that the government reveals Russian spies sought to interfere in the UK election
Russian cyber spies are attempting to steal research into COVID-19 vaccines and treatments from the UK, the US and Canada, the three nations had claimed on Thursday.
The cyber attack is ongoing, with cyber experts from the United Kingdom working to defend research institutions, laboratories, as well as other targets in Britain, according to a branch of GCHQ, the intelligence agency.
Official data suggests that almost 650,000 workers in the UK have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, amid fears that an employment crisis exceeding that of the one in the 1980s could occur.
“We condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Paul Chichester, the NCSC’s director of operations, said in a statement.
“Working with our allies, the NCSC is committed to protecting our most critical assets and our top priority at this time is to protect the health sector.
“We would urge organisations to familiarise themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks.”
This news comes as, in a separate development, the government revealed that it had discovered that, through the releasing of leaked documents on a potential US-UK trade deal, Russian groups sought to interfere in last year’s general election.
Members of the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee have agreed to publish the long-awaited report into alleged Russian interference within UK politics over the next week.
This comes after Boris Johnson has indicated at PMQs that he has not yet read the government-commissioned report that sets out urgent measures required to prepare for the potential of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, telling the Commons that he was only “aware” of it.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has now accused a group known as APT29, who also go by the aliases of “the Dukes” and “Cozy Bear”, for the attacks on COVID-19 research facilities and said it “almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services”.
The main organisation in responding to cyber attacks on the UK, the NCSC, released an advisory that set out the specifics of how the Russian cyber spies are allegedly trying to steal highly important research into the treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus.
The US and the UK warned in May that state-backed cyber attackers are trying to steal information from universities in both nations, as well as research and pharmaceuticals institutes that are working on the COVID-19 response.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson has said: “The attacks which are taking place against scientists and others doing vital work to combat coronavirus are despicable.”
“Working with our allies, we will call out those who seek to do us harm in cyber space and hold them to account.”
Leonid Slutsky, head of the international affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, branded the “unfounded” claims as “another manifestation of Russophobia”.
He said: “Again, some speculation without any evidence.”
“In Russia, its own trials of a vaccine against COVID-19 are quite successful, we have a strong virology, so there was no reason to steal ‘secrets’.”