Russia’s ambassador to Britain rejects allegations of coronavirus vaccine hacking

Monday, 20 Jul, 2020

Russian cyber actors are targeting organizations involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a new warning by US, UK and Canadian security officials.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that Russian Federation "certainly has nothing to do with" with the alleged attempts by hackers to target researcher centres in Canada, Britain and the USA working on COVID-19 vaccines.

"I don't believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it", he said when asked about the allegations.

He added 'I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media.

The top cyber and national security agencies-including the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security-jointly allege that APT29, also known as "the Dukes" or "Cozy Bear" which the agency says "almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services", was responsible for the malicious activity.

A co-ordinated statement from Britain, the United States and Canada attributed the attacks to group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear.

He blamed the Russian government for being engaged in "outrageous and reprehensible activity at the time that the world is coming together to try and tackle COVID-19, particularly come up with a global solution for a vaccine".

Dmitriev added that Russian Federation did not need to steal data because it had already signed a deal with AstraZeneca Plc to produce the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine at R-Pharm. "We're talking about a quiet intelligence collection operation where Russian Federation quietly leverages the research of others to advance their own".

The NCSC said that government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy groups were mainly being targeted, in a bid "to steal valuable intellectual property".

Mr Kelin responded: "We are not accusing the United Kingdom as a state in interference, but we detected cyber attacks that came from the United Kingdom".

Oxford University and Imperial University London scientists are at the forefront of British research projects to create a vaccine to prevent thousands more from dying of coronavirus.

Kelin said, "I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference".

In a separate claim, London said "Russian actors" sought to disrupt last year's UK general election by circulating leaked trade documents between Britain and the United States.

She told Sophy Ridge: "I think we got it wrong on Russian Federation and I made a feature of this during the Labour leadership campaign because I felt that it really needed to be said".

"We would urge organizations to familiarise themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks", Chichester added.

Russia's rapid approach to vaccine development differs from Western Europe and the USA, where researchers typically run phase 3 trials for months to show safety and effectiveness.