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Russian cyber attacks on healthcare sector of the UK: NCSC report released

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released the annual report on cyber crimes and spreading fakes related to COVID-19 pandemic in particular.

The intelligence unit said that while Russia and other states -€“ such as China -€“ had targeted British vaccine research, and these crimes were committed by the criminal gangs which are under control of mentioned countries. The statistics, published in the annual report of the National Cyber Security Centre reveal the scale of the threat to Britain’€™s healthcare sector from the global pandemic: criminals tried to profit from public fear, the NHS (National Health Service) became a target for hackers and UK vaccine research evolved as a new espionage risk.

In July, the NCSC revealed Russian cyber actors, known as APT29, had been targeting organisations involved in coronavirus vaccine development. The NCSC assessed that APT29, also named “€œThe Dukes”€ or “Cozy Bear”€, almost certainly operated under the guidance of Russian security services. The NCSC report listed the variety of tools and techniques, including spear-phishing and custom malware known as “€œWellMess”€ and “€œWellMail”€ which were used for unauthorized collecting information, which is intellectual property of the UK residents. This not only exposed the hostile action directly, but also demonstrated to a wide range of pharmaceutical companies a direct threat to their security and to the efforts they undertake to overcome world pandemic.

Dominic Raab, MP, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs said: “€œWe condemn these despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Working with our allies, the NCSC is committed to protecting our most critical assets and our top priority at this time is to protect the health sector.”

The UK Government has already stated that any foreign interference in the UK’€™s domestic affairs is completely unacceptable, but certain countries seek to exploit elections through cyber attacks, disinformation and other methods. It was also mentioned that cyber attacks are targeted not only to cause damage to UK healthcare system, but also are considerable threats to national security and democratic processes. The NCSC is working with the Government in taking forward a program to ensure there are robust safeguards against hostile state activity, foreign lobbying activity and third parties seeking to interfere in democratic processes. The UK will continue to identify and respond to malign activity alongside NATO and international partners.

In a Written Ministerial Statement on 16 July 2020, the Foreign Secretary said that the Government was almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election.

“Working with our allies, the NCSC is committed to protecting our most critical assets and our top priority at this time is to protect the health sector,” said Paul Chichester, NCSC Director of operations.

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