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Iranian cyber-attack targeted American coronavirus drugmaker Gilead: report

Iran has recorded over 6,500 deaths resulting from coronavirus infection [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 May, 2020

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Recent attempts by Iranian hackers trying to access emails of Gilead employees highlights a new cyberattack trend focusing on coronavirus information, a report said.
American drugmaker Gilead Sciences, which has developed the antiviral remdesivir shown to be effective against the coronavirus, was targeted by hackers with ties to Iran, Reuters reported on Friday.

Iran-linked hackers carried out multiple attempts to gain access to Gilead employee emails in recent weeks, the news agency said, based on its review of web archives and interviews with three cybersecurity researchers.

Citing an intelligence researcher at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, Reuters reported that a cyberattack was carried out by an Iranian group as part of efforts to compromise Gilead employee email accounts by impersonating journalists.

One of the attempts involved sending a fake email login page to a top Gilead executive, according to the report.

While Reuters could not confirm if any of the cyberattacks had been successful, the report highlighted a global trend of cyber spies attempting to gain insight about Covid-19.

In a seperate report last month, Reuters reported hackers "working in the interests of the Iranian government" had attempted to break into email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the pandemic.

In comments to Reuters, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesperson for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, denied the country’s involvement in cyber warfare. 

"Cyber activities Iran engages in are purely defensive and to protect against further attacks on Iranian infrastructure," Miryousefi was quoted as saying.

Read also: Clash of the internet: The rise of Iran's cyber warfare against US and the Gulf

The US has reportedly warned that state-backed hackers are targeting pharmaceutical firms, as well research institutions, which are developing and testing treatments for the coronavirus.

A spokesman for Gilead declined a Reuters request for comment citing a company policy against discussing cybersecurity matters. 

Iran's motives for the reported attack remained unclear, while the country has recorded a total of over 105,000 coronavirus cases, resulting in 6,541 deaths as of Saturday.

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