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Hackers Watching COVID19 Vaccine Rollout

Hackers aren't just looking to steal information on the vaccines for COVID-19. They're also going after its distributors and suppliers security researchers warned.

Researchers from IBM's X-Force team detailed a global hacking campaign targeting government agencies, tech companies, and energy suppliers in countries like Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Taiwan. The companies and agencies are all connected to the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform, a partnership between UNICEF, the vaccine alliance Gavi and other organizations to help with vaccine distribution.

The attacks came as emails pretending to be from Haier Biomedical, a Chinese company that says it's the world's only complete cold chain provider. The cold chain is a crucial part of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Haier Biomedical is working with CCEOP, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations to help with the COVID-19 vaccine's rollout, and the hackers sent emails to targets asking for price quotes, IBM's researchers said.

A Haier Biomedical representative said the company was investigating the security concerns, and is taking the threats seriously.

The emails contained a malicious attachment that would ask people to enter their passwords to view the files, which the hackers would steal. It's unclear if any of the attacks were successful, but the purpose was likely to gather information for future attempts, IBM's researchers said.

"Moving laterally through networks and remaining there in stealth would allow them to conduct cyber espionage and collect additional confidential information from the victim environments for future operations," said Claire Zaboeva, a cyberthreat analyst at IBM's X-Force and co-author of the report.

The hacking targets included the European Commission's Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union, which would be in direct contact with several countries and could open pathways for more targeted attacks.

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