In a new blog post describing nation state cyberattacks on COVID-19 vaccine makers, Microsoft is calling for an end to attacks on the healthcare industry amid the pandemic.
Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of customer security and trust at Microsoft, said the company has detected cyberattacks from three nation-state actors on seven prominent companies involved in developing vaccines and treatments for the virus, including leading companies and researchers in the U.S., Canada, France, India and South Korea.
“We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society,” Burt writes.
According to Burt, the attacks came from Strontium, a hacking group based in Russia, and two groups from North Korea, Zinc and Cerium. He describes the attackers’ methods in the post:
Strontium continues to use password spray and brute force login attempts to steal login credentials. These are attacks that aim to break into people’s accounts using thousands or millions of rapid attempts.
Zinc has primarily used spear-phishing lures for credential theft, sending messages with fabricated job descriptions pretending to be recruiters. Cerium engaged in spear-phishing email lures using Covid-19 themes while masquerading as World Health Organization representatives.
The majority of these attacks were blocked by security protections built into our products. We’ve notified all organizations targeted, and where attacks have been successful, we’ve offered help.
Attacks on the healthcare industry during the pandemic have been frustratingly persistent, with some targeting hospitals and healthcare organizations, and others targeting groups like the World Health Organization.
Burt’s blog, published Friday, comes as Microsoft President Brad Smith participates in the Paris Peace Forum where he urged world governments to do more and affirm international law that protects health care facilities.
According to Burt, other international efforts to put a halt to nation-state hacking are underway, including the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, other initiatives from the CyberPeace Institute and Red Cross and others in the private sector.
“At a time when the world is united in wanting an end to the pandemic and anxiously awaiting the development of a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19, it is essential for world leaders to unite around the security of our health care institutions and enforce the law against cyberattacks targeting those who endeavor to help us all,” Burt writes.