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article imageLooking behind the North Korea cyberattack on Pfizer Special

By Tim Sandle     Feb 18, 2021 in Technology
For a country that allegedly has no cases of COVID-19, it is interesting to see the apparent attack by the state upon the drug company Pfizer with the aim to acquire coronavirus vaccine technology.
North Korean hackers have attempted to break into the computer systems of Pfizer, according to The Washington Post. This was due to a search for information on the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment technology, according to a South Korean lawmaker. Pfizer has not commented on the situation, leaving details vague on when the hack occurred or how successful the hackers might have been.
Looking at the issue for Digital Journal is Rusty Carter, Chief Product Officer of LogRhythm.
Carter says that the issue shows the extent of the threat that rogue states face: “This is a high-profile reminder that espionage is both prevalent and an existential threat to businesses across industries. Within the current global economy, that can include state sponsored activities to extract proprietary and business critical data."
There is also a focus on the healthcare sector, as Carer notes: "No industry is more visible right now than biotech and vaccine development companies, though many others continue to be rich targets due to their profitable industries. This type of espionage and proprietary information loss is a critical threat to organizations worldwide."
In terms of the specific issue, Carter states: "Unfortunately, it is not a surprise that North Korea has attempted to hack a pharmaceutical company like Pfizer in order to obtain important information about the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment technology. Nation-states have been targeting the U.S. for decades, but SolarWinds was a clear escalation. Now, the rules of engagement are set and companies need to be aware that multiple nations, including North Korea, possess similar capabilities and are targeting organizations that hold powerful information, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it is still unclear how successful these hackers were, it does serve as an important reminder that attacks on healthcare organizations and other critical infrastructure are a very real threat. Organizations must be hyperaware of risks posed by nation-states and not just national hackers and groups."
Cater also considers what the attackers could be doing with these types of data: "Securing proprietary information and assets requires a number of physical and electronic measures, and common to all security and risk management programs is strong detection and response capabilities. Especially in today’s virtual world, detecting and responding to sophisticated network attacks is crucial.”
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