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Coronavirus Drug Maker Gilead Was Recently Targeted By Iran Linked Hackers

Coronavirus Drug Maker Gilead Was Recently Targeted By Iran Linked Hackers
According to a report by the global news agency Reuters, staff at United States based drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc was targeted in recent weeks by hackers with links to Iran even as the company is moving towards development of a treatment for the novel coronavirus. The report was based on publicly-available web archives reviewed by Reuters and three cybersecurity researchers.
According to an archived version on a website used to scan for malicious web addresses, a top Gilead executive involved in legal and corporate affairs was sent a fake email login page designed to steal passwords in April in one of the attempted hacking incidents. 
The aim of the attacks by an Iranian group of hackers was to compromise email accounts of staff of the company by sending them messages posing as being sent by journalists, said Ohad Zaidenberg, lead intelligence researcher at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, who is tasked with closely following hacking activities by Iran based groups. 
There was clear evidence that showed that the web domains and hosting servers that were used in the attempted hackings had Iran links, said the Reuters report quoting two cybersecurity researchers who were not named.
The allegation of involvement in the attacks was denied by Iran’s mission to the United Nations. “The Iranian government does not engage in cyber warfare,” said spokesman Alireza Miryousefi. “Cyber activities Iran engages in are purely defensive and to protect against further attacks on Iranian infrastructure.”
There were also no comments available from Gilead on the issue.
According to experts and analysts, the efforts of hackers around the world currently is to gain access to information related to Covid-19, the  disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and opined that such attempts are happening all across the world.
There have been reports in the media about a number of Iran linked hackers and some other groups have tried to hack into the data base of the World Health Organization. On the other hand, the Chinese government was targeted by hackers with links to Vietnam over the debate over how Beijing had handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Those pharmaceutical companies and research institutions that are currently working on treatments for the new disease are being targeted by state-backed hackers, warned Britain and the United States earlier this week.
A joint statement issued by the countries did not put the blame on any specific country. However reports also indicated that both the countries had meant to indicate Gilead as being one of the targets for the hackings. Remdesivir, a an experimental drug from Gilead, is currently the only drug that has shown some positive results in fighting against Convid-19 and has gained government approval in eth US for its application of patients of the novel coronavirus. 
Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at US cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said that the cyber attacks that were conducted previously by a group of suspected Iranian hackers known as “Charming Kitten” had used the same hacking infrastructure that were used in the latest attempt to gain access to the Gilead executive’s email account.
“Access to even just the email of staff at a cutting-edge Western pharmaceutical company could give ... the Iranian government an advantage in developing treatments and countering the disease,” said Moriuchi, a former analyst with the US National Security Agency.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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