North Korea Hacked Foreign Pharmaceutical Companies To Develop Own Vaccine

North Korea Hacked Foreign Pharmaceutical Companies To Develop Own Vaccine. image: Wikipedia

North Korea Hacked Foreign Pharmaceutical Companies To Develop Own Vaccine.

North Korea has begun human testing of a COVID-19 vaccine. The country is developing its own vaccine, scientists are using manufacturing know-how stolen through “hacking activities” conducted late last year, according to sources.

Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials have been completed so far, while Phase 3 clinical trials are currently underway on suspected COVID-19 patients. The Biological Industry Research Center of Kim Il Sung University is reportedly handling major research on vaccine development.

While the North Korean regime still claims that the country has no confirmed COVID-19 cases, a source suggests that North Korean authorities are conducting vaccine tests on patients who are suffering from symptoms presenting similarly to COVID-19.

Bureau 325

North Korean authorities have recently created a new “hacking organization” dedicated to stealing information on COVID-19, including vaccine development technology, based on the source’s account.

According to a source, the new organization is called Bureau 325 and it operates under the Reconnaissance General Bureau while receiving direct orders from the Central Committee. The source claims that the group immediately reports major technology-related acquisitions to Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that Kim and powerful party secretary Jo Yong Won are managing the group’s activities themselves.

In fact, North Korean hacking activities against vaccine manufacturers have skyrocketed since the fourth quarter of last year. Mun Chong Hyun, the head of the ESTsecurity Security Response Center (ESRC), told Daily NK that there were continuous, concentrated North Korean hacking attacks on South Korean and overseas pharmaceutical companies from around early October of last year.

North Korean hackers targeted at least six pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., the U.K. and South Korea in December last year that were working on Covid-19 treatments, as the regime sought sensitive information it could use to make its own vaccine or even sell as a cyberweapon.

The firms include previously unreported targets in the U.S.: Johnson & Johnson and Maryland-based Novavax Inc., which are both working on experimental vaccines, the people said. The list also includes three South Korean companies with Covid-19 drugs in earlier clinical trials, Genexine Inc., Shin Poong Pharmaceutical Co. and Celltrion Inc., they added.

North Korea had also tried infiltrating U.K.-based AstraZeneca PLC, whose vaccine co-developed with the University of Oxford, has been shown to be as much as 90% effective and is seeking emergency approval, the people said.

It wasn’t known whether the hackers succeeded in swiping useful information. But North Korea has coordinated attacks on the six companies since August, the source said.

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Tony Winterburn

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