South Korean officials have claimed that North Korea attempted to hack U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer in order to steal data related to its coronavirus vaccine. News of the alleged cyber attack comes despite the fact that the Hermit Kingdom has claimed that there has not yet been a case of COVID-19 reported in the country.
According to the BBC, it is not yet known if the hack was successful or how much information was gained about the drug. South Korea's National Intelligence Agency privately briefed lawmakers about the alleged attack, according to a local news agency.
Pfizer was the first company to successfully develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus and was granted emergency approval to distribute its medication in late 2019. Since then, other companies such as Moderna and AstraZeneca have also created drugs that have been approved for use against the disease. According to CNN, Pfizer expects to earn approximately $15 billion in revenue from its vaccine.
The company has not yet released a comment on the cyber attack. Meanwhile, North Korea is scheduled to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within the next few weeks.
This is not the first time that pharmaceutical companies have faced online threats about COVID-19 research. In November 2020, Microsoft announced that several biotech businesses had been targeted, though it added that most of the attacks were unsuccessful. Even governing bodies such as the World Health Organization have reported hacking attempts.
Moreover, the breach attempts have been alleged to come from numerous state-owned agencies, including Russia.
"Vaccine candidates represent liquid gold to many parties, both in terms of the opportunity and the pure market value," explained Marc Rogers, founder of a volunteer group fighting COVID-related breaches -- CTI-League -- per Reuters. "Information on the vaccine and access to any link in the distribution chain has significantly increased value."
Rogers also detailed the information that was potentially accessed in the November breach.
"We are talking confidential information about the vaccine and its mechanism of action, its efficiency, its risks & known possible side effects and any unique aspects such as handling guidelines," he said.
"It also provides detailed information on other parties involved in the supply and distribution of the vaccine and potentially significantly increases the attack surface for the vaccine," he added, pointing out the physical threats to the vaccine.
As was previously covered by The Inquisitr, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly been eager to execute a successful hack to obtain data on COVID-19 research. In fact, sources claimed that he himself was personally overseeing the hacking bureau.