Foreign state-sponsored hackers are reportedly targeting companies tasked with researching COVID-19, in some cases intruding into systems and performing reconnaissance.
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz acknowledged the cyber espionage activity in an online panel discussion organizations by the Aspen Institute, Reuters has reported.
Ugoretz reportedly said that when companies publicly disclose that they are investigating the disease, it "makes them a mark for other nation-states that are interested in gleaning details about what exactly they’re doing and maybe even stealing proprietary information that those institutions have."
No specific threat actors or APT groups were named in the discussion.
"As a general rule, as data increases in value, the threats [to] that data will become more advanced and targeted... with more resources and funding behind them," said Tony Cook, director at the Crypsis Group, an incident response, risk management and digital forensics firm.
"The COVID pandemic has created a situation of international focus – perhaps more so than at any other time in recent history – driving focus around treatment, cures, food availability and supply chains. We can expect to see not only the threats around these areas of concern becoming more sophisticated, but also nation-state threat actors and organized crime becoming predominant in the activity," Cook continued. "Research activity around the pandemic is certainly going to be of heightened global interest, as this data is extremely valuable and will be sought after by many different threat groups. It is imperative, now more than ever, that healthcare entities ensure their security postures are as robust as possible to thwart these attacks."