North Korean hackers were recently involved in targeting and attempting to steal information on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The newspaper reported that South Korea's National Intelligence Service informed South Korean lawmakers of the threat during a closed-door briefing earlier this week.
According to the Post, Ha Tae-keung, a lawmaker and member of the committee briefed on the issue, said the alleged hackers went after the COVID-19 vaccine and other Pfizer technology developed around the pandemic. He noted that South Korea had seen a 32 percent spike over the past year in cyberattacks from North Korea.
It was not immediately clear if the hacking efforts were successful.
Pfizer did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
The news comes on the heels of both foreign and cyber criminal hackers stepping up efforts over the past year to go after COVID-19 vaccines and related medical research.
Pfizer’s vaccine, developed with BioNTech, was one of the vaccines impacted by the data breach of the European Union’s European Medicines Agency in December. Hackers were able to access documents on Pfizer’s vaccine and the one developed by Moderna, both of which had been submitted for evaluation and approval in the EU.
North Korea has previously been tied to targeting COVID-19 vaccine research, with The Wall Street Journal reporting in December that North Korean hackers had attempted to hack into six pharmaceutical groups involved in COVID-19 vaccine development in both the U.S. and South Korea.
The COVID-19 vaccine supply chain in the U.S. has also been threatened by hacking efforts. Officials warned last year that the distribution process, particularly cold storage groups, was being targeted.
Malicious cyber activity has targeted other organizations involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were both victims of cyberattacks last year, and hospitals in the U.S. and around the world have fallen victim to ransomware attacks that have hampered critical services.