Attacks on computer systems have been repeated in various countries competing for a vaccine, the director of the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI), Paz Esteban, said on Thursday, stating that the secret services exchange information to avoid it.
During a seminar, she sounded the alarm about the “quantitative and qualitative” increase in cyber attacks during the isolation period, which mainly targeted the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.
These attacks were “a virulent campaign, not only in Spain, against laboratories working to find a vaccine against Covid-19,” Esteban added.
Most of them, according to sources consulted by the Spanish newspaper, come from China and Russia. In many cases, they are state entities, but universities and organizations that trade in stolen information are also involved. In the case of Spain, it is known that the attack was directed from China. Sources did not disclose the seriousness and nature of the stolen information.
In July, a court in Spokane, Washington, accused two Chinese nationals of hacking the systems of hundreds of technology companies, governments, NGOs and human rights groups in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany for a decade. Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Spain.
In recent months, according to the allegations, “they have investigated vulnerabilities in the computer networks of companies that develop vaccines against Covid-19, testing technology and treatments.” Hackers sometimes work for their own benefit, but they also work with the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
A few months ago, researchers working on vaccine development were warned to take precautions against possible data theft attempts. The leaders of the six Spanish groups that are developing prototype vaccines said they had not noticed any theft of data from their computer systems.
There are over ten projects in Spain for the development of vaccines against Covid-19. In advanced stages are those developed at the National Center for Biotechnology of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona. In none of the cases did the human tests begin.
There are currently 182 experimental vaccines and 36 of them are being tested on tens of thousands of volunteers, according to the World Health Organization. The European Union has set aside more than 1.3 billion doses of six different projects, although none are proven safe and effective.