IBM is sounding the alarm over hackers targeting companies dangerous to the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, a sign that digital detectives are turning their attention to the complex logistical work involved in inoculating the world’s population against the novel coronavirus.
The IT company has said in a post published on Thursday that it had uncovered “a global phishing campaign” focused on organizations which is related with the COVID-19 vaccine the process needed to keep vaccine doses at very cold temperatures as they travel from manufacturers to people’s arms.
The US Cyber security and Infrastructure Security Agency reposted the report, warning members of Operation Twist Speed, the US government’s national vaccine mission, to be on the lookout.
Understanding how to build a secure cold chain is fundamental to allocating vaccines developed by the likes of Pfizer and BioNTech because the shots need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 F) or below to avoid destroying.
IBM’s cyber security unit said it had perceived a progressive group of hackers working to gather information about different features of the cold chain, using meticulously crafted booby-trapped emails sent in the name of an executive with Haier Biomedical, a Chinese cold chain provider that specializes in vaccine transport and biological sample storage.
The hackers went through “an exceptional amount of effort,” said IBM analyst Claire Zaboeva, who helped draft the report.
Hackers investigated the correct make, model, and pricing of various Haier refrigeration units, Zaboeva said.
She further said,
“Whoever put together this campaign was intimately aware of whatever products were involved in the supply chain to deliver a vaccine for a global pandemic.”