back to article FYI Russia is totally hacking the West's labs in search of COVID-19 vaccine files, say UK, US, Canada cyber-spies

Russian hackers at the state's FSB spy agency have been caught breaking into Western institutions working on potential vaccines for the COVID-19 coronavirus in hope of stealing said research. That's according to the British National Cyber Security Centre and America's NSA today. The Kremlin-backed APT29 crew, also known by a …


    1. ibmalone

      Why do you think the data is not being made public?

      Do you think the Russians aim to make it public?

      Do you realise that there is a chance this activity might cause loss of the data they are after or interruption to the research work?

  1. TheInstigator

    Difference in response

    I can't help but think the response to these hacking attempts would be very different if the culprit was China or Iran etc ...

    Given the ability for intelligence agencies to construct a narrative, I wonder why they don't just blame an Axis of Evil (TM) - consisting of the triumvirate of Russia, China and Iran. Historically we all know humans do their finest work when they have a well defined scapegoat.

    1. Kabukiwookie

      Re: Difference in response

      the triumvirate of Russia, China and Iran. Historically we all know humans do their finest work when they have a well defined scapegoat.

      They could call it 'Eurasia'. Fits geographically and flows off the tongue.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge

        Re: Difference in response

        “Flows off the tongue”... like spit?

        Upvote for that one.

      2. Tail Up

        Re: Difference in response

        Something big is out of the woods in Iran, looks like.

    2. Fred Dibnah
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Difference in response

      Don’t forget to add Cuba & Venezuela. When you look on a globe it’s blatantly obvious that those countries have manoeuvred themselves into place in order to surround the USA and attack it. They are using plate tectonics to sneak closer.

      1. TheInstigator

        Re: Difference in response

        Those dastardly fiends!

      2. TimMaher Silver badge

        Re: Difference in response

        ... and North Korea?

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    If it's come from government it's a lie

    Or at least hand-waving to draw attention away from what our government is doing.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    'Tis a broad brush, but undeniable when truthful

    If it's come from government it's a lie

    Or at least hand-waving to draw attention away from what our government is doing. .... Will Godfrey

    And whenever they are really bad at it, and it takes but just a very few to realise what they are trying desperately to conceal and protect with their fantastic tales and fake news to raise merry hell, is it highly problematical and self-destructively defeating, for their systems admins and cheering partners be guilty of collusion in support of an alternate virtual reality and invariably criminal joint enterprise operation, which they continually need to feed puppet mastering media machines with further crooked seeds ...... until it inevitably suddenly explodes and implodes.

    And the fact that such is not simply understood by those groups which swarm around and form themselves in the guise of government, is proof positive of a catastrophic lack of necessary future intelligence ....... and in all departments and services which are servering them information.


    1. Cliff Thorburn

      Re: 'Tis a broad brush, but undeniable when truthful

      Do you think Cummings may be turning his attention on the MOD’s leaky co intel pro MK Ultra authorised secret pirate ship playground budget?

      Or is such stinking shenanigans permitted in the great skunkworks game?

      FSB or Facebook? ... who pulls the tentacles in the tantalising next round of presidential precedental polls?, with plentiful pandemic pantomime this Christmas?, all here and now on the wild and wacky completely staged world illusion illustrated by illumunating incumbents is it not? ...

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: 'Tis a broad brush, but undeniable when truthful

        Anything and everything is permitted, CT. Just don't get caught doing something you shouldn't have done by someone or anything doing it better, for it may then be used against you and render you seriously disadvantaged.

        1. Cliff Thorburn

          Re: 'Tis a broad brush, but undeniable when truthful

          Three things that cannot be hidden amFM, the Sun, the Moon, and the truth.

          It will be all resolved and revealed one day, whether with me or without me.

  4. John Savard

    It Could be Much Worse

    When I first saw this news story, I breathed a sigh of relief. It's unfortunate that Russia is stealing other countries' intellectual property in this manner, and it's unclear why they're doing it, since despite the bad relations Russia has earned with the West, it's not as if the West would try charging them extortionate prices for a COVID-19 vaccine.

    What would have had me very upset would have been if they were sabotaging the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in other countries. That would be a rea. disaster.

  5. batfink

    What? Surely not....

    Am i to understand that spy agencies are spying?

    Surely not.

  6. jason_derp


    "It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic."

    People in glass ships...

  7. poohbear

    Pot kettle black and all that.

  8. FuzzyTheBear

    When only money is the matter at hand

    See there's this illness that spreads through the world .. and companies are seeking to make a buck with it.

    That part is a huge moral dilemna. Should the vaccine be " open source " ? In times like these is it moral to keep the information a company secret ?

    Imho , all research data , results and the vaccine itself should be opened to all. If you have to buy from a single or multiple sources at extortionate prices it's holding the world to ransom. This is not moral. This is highly immoral .. when are we to see a virus released by a vaccine company so their vaccine hits the market and they make a buck making us sick in the first place ? .. See where i'm going ? .. If the COVID-19 vaccine data is released , formulas shared with the world for all to use that's ok .. but for a company to keep everything secret is just exploiting humanity , the dead , the sick and the global economy to their advantage and that is immoral. Release the data .. dont keep it so secret .. open source the vaccine and it will go faster , will benefit humanity instead of just the shareholders and show the world they care about the people instead of just their investors. Wanna make a killing on the market ? Share it .. it will be the greatest publicity stunt ever and the company actually having the balls to do it will instantly gain world recognition as a good company and their products will fly off the shelf.

    1. ibmalone

      Re: When only money is the matter at hand

      Which company is keeping their vaccine development secret? Are you aware one of the leading contenders is an academic-industry partnership? Who is going to be doing the research and manufacturing? Will you be paying them? Do you really think 'open sourcing' 'the' vaccine will speed things up (n.b. on 'the', we have candidate vaccines, we don't know if any of them work, so lots of people are investing in developing and testing possibilities)? It's not code you compile on a computer, it's processes, cell lines, manufacturing (GMP is an entire issue), you are not going to be making this in your garage.

    2. genghis_uk

      Re: When only money is the matter at hand

      Well said Mr TheBear and it saved me a whole lot of typing!

      Have a Friday one -->

  9. David Gosnell


    .... we should start treating this global crisis as, well, you know, a global crisis, with a global solution?

    As others have commented elsewhere, we (well everyone apart from Boris and his crazy gang) don't give a flying one about having "world-beating" anything, just an end to this damned thing whatever it takes.

  10. John Robson Silver badge

    "Protecting global health

    "the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health"

    So does that mean that the government is completely funding the research and will be freely sharing the data on request?

  11. Uncle Ron

    Is it Time?

    I'd really like an opinion on whether it's time to cordon off these evil state actors like China and Russia from the world wide internet. Russia has taken steps to cut it's own people off, and China has been filtering the web from it's people for years. I feel China and Russia (and Iran, and well known scammer domains) need to be cut off. Huh?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Is it Time?

      If you'd like an opinion, here's mine: No.

      Cutting countries off the internet is bad because it's hard, it gives them extra power, and it harms us. I'll take each point in turn, but these are short summaries. Also, I've used China as an example below for two reasons. First, it's annoying to write and to read "Russia, China, Iran, and countries like them" all the time. Second, the problems I detail get infinitely worse the larger the country and the more activity links them and us, and on that basis China is the most dangerous.

      It's hard: In order to disconnect China from the internet, we have to disconnect their lines and/or drop all traffic coming out of them. If we try to cut the lines, we will need to reconnect other places which currently use China's lines for transoceanic communication. Mongolia is going to be the worst hit since they're entirely enclosed by China and Russia, but you have some other countries in southeast and central Asia whose lines are going to need to go through India, meaning getting Pakistan on board and going through war-torn areas. Then, you have to imagine that China will try to work against this, for example by using existing lines that go into Vietnam and masquerading as Vietnamese traffic. Do you really expect Vietnam's government to take drastic action to stop this with one of their closest allies and one with a massive army quite invested in it continuing to work? Of course, any espionage would be much more hidden than that, perhaps starting by going through Myanmar but quickly bouncing to servers in the west operated by agents in some other country.

      It helps the countries we are trying to hurt: China spends a lot of money protecting itself from terribly dangerous network traffic containing things favorable to democracy. By cutting off that traffic, they don't have to bother anymore. The important government services will still run on local systems through local comms, so the citizens shouldn't be that affected. And when they are anyway, there is a perfect target: the west. "The west has cut off your internet. They do not like us Chinese. They are the enemy. We didn't do it; they did. Why would you support them?"

      It hurts us: Currently, we rely on China for various things. It might be better if we didn't, but we do. We buy from and sell to China, collaborate with Chinese research institutions, all that. If we cut off the communication between us, we have to stop most of that and don't expect what is left to continue for long after the governments start looking for revenge. This means that we cannot get things from there, make money there, or do anything to help the people living there get some rights.

      It hurts us even longer: That was what happens in the first month or two, but let me prognosticate a bit further. If we decided to cancel our business relationships in China, which we really might like to do, people interested in human rights might be pleased. People who used to make a lot of money in China, however, won't be so happy. It will be in their interests to bring back their profit stream, and they will try. The easy way to do that is to lobby for new politicians who will restore the ability to trade in China, in return for which the Chinese government will demand various assurances from said country. If Singapore, for example, reopens its internet to China and starts buying things from them, do we give up on this exercise, cut off Singapore too, or wait for the same to happen to us? None look viable to me.

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Be sure to leave a lot of press reports on bleach and UV laid about the place.

    Seriously, I suspect if the result of this spying were put in front of researchers much of it would be what they already knew from their own work or what's published. Advance figures from clinical trials might well excite managers. But what would be missing from information acquired by this means would be viable samples of the actual genetically engineered adenovirus or whatever is being used to manufacture antigens.

  13. Roger Kynaston

    Oh thoe russions

    Ra Ra Vladsputin,

    Ra Ra Vladsputin

    Russias greatest hack machine!

  14. JDX Gold badge

    Why aren't we making all research open-source in the first place?

    As title

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Why aren't we making all research open-source in the first place?

      "Why aren't we making all research open-source in the first place? "

      It more or less is, but the hacking is for in-progress stuff. There's also still a desire for stealing things even if they will become public domain.

      Here's one example: suppose you hacked the Synairgen and University of Southampton servers, and you had a week's extra notice that the interferon beta drug would be successful. You could make a lot of money on the stockmarket.

  15. T. F. M. Reader

    The malware supports HTTP, TLS and DNS communications methods,” said NCSC

    Is this a "new normal" way to say the malware sends stuff over HTTPS after a bit of name resolution? Sorry, but am I the only one who thinks the sentence just reads weirdly?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


      It means the same thing - it's to give you a specific list of services to monitor for activity. Admittedly, DNS, HTTP and TLS are quite heavily used in normal business but the point is: you don't have to go looking for weird ports or obscure protocols.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Russians?


    More likely some paid hacktivists working for the Military-Industrial complex / demonrats spoofing to blame Russia in the hope of revitalising the 'Russian election interference' narrative, as it's election year in the USA after all...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The Russians?

      Just four beats to the bar, OK?

    2. Nifty

      Re: The Russians?

      Well, conspiracy theory is an onion.

  17. sanmigueelbeer


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