Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain

A senior FBI cybersecurity official and top security experts at leading health care groups on Thursday warned that nation state hackers and other cyber criminals are targeting the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.

“We see our most determined nation state adversaries not just relying on one method to target the supply chain, but combining cyber with using more traditional espionage and human sources to try to penetrate organizations,” Tonya Ugoretz, the FBI’s deputy assistant director of Cyber Readiness, Outreach, and Intelligence Branch, said at the Aspen Institute’s virtual Cyber Summit.

Ugoretz’s comments were made the same day IBM issued a warning that a “global phishing campaign” was targeting the cold storage portion of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out a joint alert to encourage groups involved in the vaccine distribution process to be on guard against attacks.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that North Korean hackers had attempted to hack into at least six pharmaceutical groups in the U.S. and the United Kingdom involved in developing the COVID-19 vaccine, including Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

Marene Allison, the chief information security officer (CISO) for Johnson & Johnson, emphasized Thursday that the incident was an “attempted hack,” but confirmed that the health sector is facing escalating cyber threats aimed at the COVID-19 vaccine.