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Russian, Chinese hackers may have stolen European vaccine data

Jon Fingas
·Associate Editor
·1 min read

State-backed hackers' attempts to steal COVID-19 vaccine data might be farther-reaching than you think. According to Reuters, sources for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant claim (subscription required) that Russia and China both launched cyberattacks against the European Medicines Agency in December, taking documents for vaccines and treatments in the process. The Russian intruders had access for over a month, the tipsters said, and were interested in the destinations and purchase sizes for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The Chinese reportedly attacked in the first half of 2020, during the pandemic's early stages, while Russia followed later that year.

The EMA disclosed a breach in December, but it hadn't named the culprits or provided specific motives. The agency reiterated that a criminal investigation was "ongoing," but declined to comment on who was involved in the hacks. Russia and China have historically denied any hacking campaigns regardless of evidence.

It wouldn't be surprising if Russia and China were involved. In addition to their longstanding histories of state-sponsored hacking, both counties are known to use their SARS-CoV-2 vaccines (Sputnik-V and SinoVac respectively) as forms of economic and political influence. While their exact motivations aren't clear, they might use EMA data to target nations desperate for additional vaccine supplies.