The Slatest

North Korea Reportedly Tried to Hack Pfizer Servers to Steal Coronavirus Vaccine

A man watches a television screen showing news footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
News footage from Jan. 6 of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a party meeting in Pyongyang on January 6, 2021. JUNG YEON-JE/Getty Images

You know things, geopolitically-speaking, are starting to edge back towards normal when a brazen hack thought to be orchestrated by North Korea is in the news. The fact that Pyongyang stands accused by South Korea of trying to hack a coronavirus vaccine is, however, perhaps a sign that we still have a long way to go until we’re fully back to before times. Here, in the present day, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service says the target of the hack was American drugmaker Pfizer, specifically its vaccine and treatment data. It was not reported when exactly the attempted cyberintrusion took place or whether it was successful.

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North Korea quickly closed its border with China, its primary trading partner, shortly after the virus outbreak there began, and its leader Kim Jong-un has maintained that the isolated country is coronavirus-free. It’s hard to imagine any country in the world has actually been untouched by the pandemic, but considering North Korea’s current makeup as a nation-sized prison camp, who knows? Kim, as expected, is taking pandemic propaganda very, very seriously. When the South Korean foreign minister suggested that it was “hard to believe” the North didn’t have the virus, Kim responded in a way that only makes sense in a totally over-the-top North Korean propaganda kind of way. “We will never forget her words and she might have to pay dearly for it,” Kim replied.

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North Korea, along with the usual suspects of Russia and China, have all been accused of trying to swipe vaccine data from pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and others. “Although it claims to be free of the virus, North Korea has requested coronavirus vaccines and is set to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, according to the Gavi Alliance, part of the United Nations-backed Covax effort which aims to deliver vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people,” the Washington Post reports. “The statement by South Korean officials is the latest in a string of accusations against North Korean hackers for attempting to steal vaccine technology, highlighting Pyongyang’s ongoing campaign to obtain sensitive information through nefarious means and its growing cyber capabilities.”

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