Hackers Target Coronavirus Vaccine Supply Chain In Global Phishing Attack, Report Says

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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Hackers likely backed by foreign powers have initiated a global phishing attack on companies involved in the shipping of the coronavirus vaccine, according to a cybersecurity report.

The hackers disguised themselves as a business executive from Haier Biomedical, a legitimate cold storage company involved in the coronavirus vaccine supply chain, in emails sent to organizations also associated with the supply chain, according to the IBM Research report released Thursday. The emails included fraudulent links, which would help give hackers access to sensitive information regarding the vaccine supply chain.

“Today’s report highlights the importance of cybersecurity diligence at each step in the vaccine supply chain,” Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) chief strategist for healthcare Josh Corman told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. (RELATED: UK Approves Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine For Emergency Use)

“CISA encourages all organizations involved in vaccine storage and transport to harden attack surfaces, particularly in cold storage operation, and remain vigilant against all activity in this space,” he continued.

Trucks are loaded at a Pfizer factory in Puurs, Belgium where coronavirus vaccines are being produced for the United Kingdom on Thursday. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

Trucks are loaded at a Pfizer factory in Puurs, Belgium where coronavirus vaccines are being produced for the United Kingdom on Thursday. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

In response to the report, CISA notified members of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative and warned them to be vigilant moving forward. CISA and United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre released a joint advisory in April warning that hackers would attempt to take advantage of the pandemic.

The cyberattack spanned six countries including Germany, Italy and South Korea, according to the report. The targeted companies are all involved in the cold storage aspect of the vaccine supply chain. (RELATED: Obama, Bush And Clinton Say They’ll Take Coronavirus Vaccine ‘On Camera’ To Prove Its Safety)

IBM Research couldn’t confirm who was behind the attack, but said, “the precision targeting of executives and key global organizations hold the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft.”

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have both requested emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration after large-scale human trials showed positive results. The vaccines have very short shelf lives and must be stored and shipped in extremely cold temperatures to remain viable, according to CNBC.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday his state would receive 85,000 vaccine doses and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he expects 170,000 doses to be delivered by Dec. 15 in New York, Fox News reported. A United Airlines flight carrying the first doses to be delivered landed in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the IBM Research report marked just the latest research that indicates foreign powers are employing hackers to infiltrate the vaccine supply chain, according to NBC News.

“The risk is shutting down transaction processing if orders can’t flow through electronically,” said Glenn Koepke, a senior vice president at FourKites, a company that provides logistics services to pharmaceutical and cold chain companies including Pfizer, according to NBC News.

“We’re in a digital era,” he added. “The idea of going to fax just doesn’t exist.”

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