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Hackers Target EU Commission, COVID-19 Cold Chain Supply Orgs

Hackers Target EU Commission, COVID-19 Cold Chain Supply Orgs

IBM X-Force warned of threat actors actively targeting organizations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine cold chain in a large scale spear-phishing campaign that has started three months ago, in September 2020.

Cold chain orgs are an essential part of storing and delivering the COVID-19 vaccine at safe temperatures, minus 70 degrees Celsius for the one made by Pfizer and minus 20 Celsius for the one developed by Moderna.

“Spear-phishing emails were sent to select executives in sales, procurement, information technology and finance positions, likely involved in company efforts to support a vaccine cold chain,” IBM X-Force threat analyst Claire Zaboeva said in a report published earlier today,

“We also identified instances where this activity extended organization-wide to include help and support pages of targeted organizations.”

European Commission target in attacks

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union is among the targeted entities, next to energy and manufacturing organizations, as well as companies from the software and internet security industry sectors.

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Successful attacks on this European Union entity could directly impact other targets across 27 EU member states and other similarly high-profile targets.

This phishing campaign has focused attacks on global organizations with headquarters around the world, ranging from Germany, Italy, South Korea, and the Czech Republic to greater Europe and Taiwan.

The hackers’ end goal seems to be the harvesting of credentials later to be used in further compromise and collection of information on COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

DHS-CISA also issued a warning coordinated with IBM X-Force’s report alerting organizations involved in COVID-19 vaccine storage and transport as part of the Operation Warp Speed (OWS) mission to review the indicators of compromise uncovered by IBM’s research team and include them in their defenses.

In their phishing messages, the attackers impersonate a business executive from Haier Biomedical, a Chinese company known as “the world’s only complete cold chain provider” and as a qualified supplier for The Vaccine Alliance’s Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform (CCEOP) program.

Phishing email (IBM X-Force)

“While firm attribution could not be established for this campaign, the precision targeting of executives and key global organizations hold the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft,” Zaboeva added.

“Without a clear path to a cash-out, cyber-criminals are unlikely to devote the time and resources required to execute such a calculated operation with so many interlinked and globally distributed targets.

“Likewise, insight into the transport of a vaccine may present a hot black-market commodity, however, advanced insight into the purchase and movement of a vaccine that can impact life and the global economy is likely a high-value and high-priority nation-state target.”

Also Read: Best Privacy Certification: 3 Simple Steps On How To Achieve

COVID-19 cold chain also targeted by ransomware

Cold storage giant Americold was hit by a cyberattack as BleepingComputer reported last month which forced it to shut down its computing systems.

“On November 16, 2020, Americold Realty Trust [..] determined that its computer network was affected by a cybersecurity incident,” the company said.

“As a precautionary measure, the Company took immediate steps to help contain the incident and implemented business continuity plans, where appropriate, to continue ongoing operations.”

“Security, in all its forms, remains a top priority at Americold, and the Company will continue to seek to take all appropriate measures to further safeguard the integrity of its information technology infrastructure, data and customer information,” Americold later BleepingComputer in a statement.

While Americold was not publicly confirmed as being an organization involved in the COVID-19 cold chain, airport industry news website Air Cargo World has reported that the Chicago Rockford Airport wants to partner with Americold for storing COVID-19 vaccines before distribution.

Even though Americold has not provided further details regarding the November attack, numerous sources have told BleepingComputer that it was a ransomware attack. The ransomware gang behind the incident remains unknown.



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