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File photo of a vaccine being injected in a person's arm File photo of a vaccine being injected in a person's arm 

Russian hackers allegedly trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

Western security services say Russian spies are trying to steal coronavirus research in several Western nations. Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warns that Russian hackers "almost certainly" operated as "part of Russian intelligence services."

By Stefan J. Bos

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre did not specify which organizations had been targeted or whether any information had been stolen.

But it is understood they included medical facilities and laboratories in the United States, Britain, and Canada. 

The British government has called the reported Russian efforts "despicable".

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab lashed out at Russian spies for allegedly stealing vital Covid-19 research.

"At the time the world is coming together, we are all trying to find a vaccine that both our people and people around the world can benefit from. And then to have Russia involved in that endeavor [of spying is not acceptable]," he said.

Worrying attacks

Russia's government has strongly denied responsibility.

But the news worries cybersecurity specialist Robert Hannigan. "We used to have Russians attacking just about anything they can get their hands on to cause disruptions. But this feels like it's crossing an ethical line."

He and authorities have expressed concerns about a Russian hacking group called APT29, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear.

The unit has previously been implicated in hacking the US Democratic National Committee, or DNC, during the US Presidential election in 2016. 

And in 2017, it reportedly attacked Norway's Labour Party, defense and foreign ministries, as well as the country's national security service.

17 July 2020, 15:13