The cybercriminal gang behind Maze ransomware has been extorting a UK-based clinical research organization that's been preparing to play a potential role in testing vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus, despite assurances that they would not harm any health care organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

SC Media first reported an attack on the medical center, Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), last week, citing intelligence from Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow, who provided a screenshot of Maze’s website that pointed to HRM as a victim. HRM, previously known for helping test Alzheimer's drugs and a vaccine for ebola, has since confirmed the March 14 attack to ComputerWeekly.

Reportedly, the initial attack was detected and halted in progress and systems were restored with no downtime. However, the perpetrators apparently had already exfiltrated data pertaining to thousands of former HRM patients who participated in testing trials between eight and 20 years ago. Thus, after failing to receive an extortion payment from HRM, the culprits raised the stakes by starting to publish the stolen details.

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