Hackers from Russia who appear to be operating as part of that country’s intelligence services are targeting research organisations involved in Covid-19 vaccine development in the UK, US and Canada, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has concluded. These cyberattacks likely aim to steal information and intellectual property related to the development and testing of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, the NCSC and its counterpart intelligence agencies in the US and Canada are warning.

The Russian group claimed to be responsible for these attacks is most commonly known as APT29. The group uses a variety of techniques to compromise networks such as custom malware and spear-phishing, where emails are fraudulently sent from a known or trusted party to get individuals to provide confidential information, the NCSC said.

The agency described APT29’s activities as an ongoing campaign of ‘malicious activity’ predominantly against governments, thinktanks, healthcare and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property.

Together with Canada’s Communications Security Establishment and the US National Security Agency, the NCSC has concluded that APT29 will likely continue to target bodies involved in Covid-19 vaccine research and development.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told the state-owned TASS news agency that Russia had nothing to do with the alleged cyberattacks.