Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen hackers target efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but it now seems they’re shifting their attention to the supply chain that will distribute those vaccines to people across the world.
IBM says it recently uncovered a highly coordinated global phishing campaign focused on the companies and organizations involved with the upcoming “cold chain” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. That’s the part of the supply network that ensures those vaccines stay cold enough so that they don’t go bad. It’s a critically important aspect of the two leading vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna, as they need to be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
The hackers impersonated an executive with Haier Biomedical, a Chinese company that styles itself as “the world’s only complete cold chain provider.” They sent meticulously researched phishing emails that included an HTML attachment asking the recipient to input their credentials. They could have used that information later to gain access to sensitive networks.
The campaign, which IBM says has “the potential hallmarks” of a state-sponsored effort, cast a wide net. The company only named one target explicitly — the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union — but said the campaign targeted at least 10 different organizations, including a dev shop that makes websites for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The company doesn’t know if any of the attacks were ultimately successful in their goal.