Security Sources: Iran, Russia Launch ‘Reprehensible’ Cyber-attacks on UK Universities Studying Coronavirus

A coalition of Israeli diplomats, programmers and hackers have joined forces to stave off threats by identifying bot networks on social media and getting them removed
JACK GUEZ/AFP

Foreign states are mounting cyber-attacks against British universities researching the coronavirus, according to security sources.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre is said to be working flat out to fend off the attacks, which they have condemned as “utterly reprehensible”.

“We have seen an increased proportion of cyber attacks related to coronavirus and our experts work around-the-clock to help organisations targeted,” the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) subsidiary confirmed in a statement quoted in the Mail on Sunday.

“It looks like they’re trying to steal or borrow information about our response to coronavirus,” a source told the newspaper.

“This problem – intellectual property theft and a blurred line between state and serious crime – has been around for a while but there’s obviously now an increased need to ensure we protect UK PLC and its assets,” another source added.

The Mail cited the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation as countries the cyber-attacks had been traced to — but, curiously, made no mention of China, whose communist regime has a particular interest in the pandemic and a reputation for aggressive theft of private information and intellectual property.

Security officials in the United States have been less coy, with Bill Evanina, director of the National Counter-intelligence and Security Center, telling the BBC that “We have every expectation foreign intelligence services, to include the Chinese Communist Party, will attempt to obtain what we are making here.”

He added that his officials had been working hard “to ensure [that American medical researchers] are protecting all the research and data as best they can.”

Tobias Ellwood MP, a former Defence minister and current chairman of the Defence Committee of the House of Commons, has struck a similarly combative tone, warning that the “global distraction of Covid-19 provides the perfect fog of war to conduct cyber attacks” — and that Britain should “not hesitate in retaliating”.

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