Britain and the United States said on Tuesday in a joint warning that government-backed hackers are attacking healthcare and research institutions with the goal of stealing valuable information about the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The statement does not name which countries, but Russia, Iran, and China are widely blamed.
State hacking groups "frequently target organizations in order to collect bulk personal information, intellectual property and intelligence that aligns with national priorities," the statement from Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reads.
"For example, actors may seek to obtain intelligence on national and international healthcare policy or acquire sensitive data on COVID-19 related research."
In a statement, Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said the hackers had targeted pharmaceutical companies, research organisations and local governments.
The NCSC and CISA did not say which countries were responsible for the attacks. But one U.S. official and one UK official said the warning was in response to intrusion attempts by suspected Chinese and Iranian hackers, as well as some Russian-linked activity.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public details of the alert. Tehran, Beijing and Moscow have all repeatedly denied conducting offensive cyber operations and say they are the victims of such attacks themselves.
[Jack Stubbs, Christopher Bing, May 5]