North Korean Hackers Are Said to Have Targeted Companies Working on Covid-19 Vaccines
By Andrew Jeong
SEOUL--North Korean hackers have targeted at least six
pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., the U.K. and South Korea
working on Covid-19 treatments, according to people familiar with
the matter, as Pyongyang seeks sensitive information it could sell
The firms include previously unreported targets in the U.S.:
Johnson & Johnson and Maryland-based Novavax Inc., which are
both working on experimental vaccines, the people said. The list
also includes three South Korean companies with Covid-19 drugs in
earlier clinical trials, Genexine Inc., Shin Poong Pharmaceutical
Co. and Celltrion Inc., they added.
North Korea had also tried infiltrating U.K.-based AstraZeneca
PLC, whose vaccine co-developed with the University of Oxford, has
been shown to be as much as 90% effective and is seeking emergency
approval, the people said. On Friday, Reuters reported that
suspected North Koreans had tried to break into the systems of
AstraZeneca, citing unnamed officials.
It wasn't known whether the Pyongyang hackers succeeded in
swiping useful information. But North Korea has coordinated attacks
on the six companies since August, the people said.
The attacks contained digital fingerprints used in other North
Korean campaigns against the State Department and South Korea's
unification ministry, such as the use of similar IP addresses, the
Shin Poong and Celltrion said they had received hacking attacks
but hadn't detected any damage, according to spokesmen from both
firms. The Shin Poong spokesman said the attacks were carried out
over email. The Celltrion spokesman said the hacking attacks had
accelerated sometime in the second half of 2020.
Johnson & Johnson remains vigilant against threats to its
data, a spokesman said. A Novavax spokeswoman said the company is
aware of the foreign threats and is working with "appropriate
government agencies and commercial cybersecurity experts." Genexine
is looking into the matter but hasn't found evidence of any hacking
attempt, a spokesman said.
AstraZeneca declined to comment.
Write to Andrew Jeong at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 02, 2020 02:58 ET (07:58 GMT)
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