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Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said on Thursday that hackers backed by the Russian state had tried to steal COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world. Russia has rejected London’s allegations. Cybersecurity expert Thomas Rid explained it is “understandable” that Russia would want to steal any intelligence as investment into a coronavirus vaccine is huge.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Rid said: “COVID investments are major investments for Governments right now because of the urgency of this crisis.
“Russia simply wants to get ahead of curve and make the right decisions, what trails are working, what isn’t.
“It’s an understandable intelligence targeting that we see here.
“I would assume that other countries are engaged in similar types of operations.”
Following the attack, security minister James Brokenshire told Sky News: “It’s completely unacceptable for the Russian intelligence agencies to seek to get into the systems of those who are seeking to respond to this crisis to develop a vaccine.
“There’s no evidence or information of any damage or, or any sort of harm.”
He has since told BBC Breakfast that the attacks were carried out “with the intent of extracting intellectual property and information”.
“This is incredibly serious, it is appalling that any government should act in this way and why we have called this out,” he said.
Of the National Cyber Security Centre, he said: “Their attribution is about 95%-plus in terms of who is responsible.”
Mr Brokenshire said a separate allegation of Russian interference with the December general election was not being attributed to the Russian state.
He said there was an “ongoing criminal investigation” into how a document relating to a planned UK-US trade deal had been obtained and leaked online.
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Russia’s death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 12,000 on Friday, as the country reported 186 new deaths in the past 24 hours.
The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre registered 6,406 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 759,203, the world’s fourth highest caseload.
The death toll now stands at 12,123. Russia says 539,373 people have recovered.
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