UK security services alleged that they have evidence that Russian spies stole the blueprint for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in order to develop the Sputknik V vaccine, according to a report published by The Sun on Sunday.
Former security minister James Brokenshire, who died last Thursday of lung cancer, said last year that Britain was “more than 95 percent sure” that government-supported Russian hackers compromised the UK, US and Canada in order to steal information from pharmaceutical companies.
Home Office Minister Damian Hinds would not offer confirmation of the allegations, but said on Monday that hackers were becoming more advanced:
“We live in a world, I am afraid, where there is state activity seeking to engage in industrial espionage and economic espionage, there are cyber attacks that happen and so on,” Hinds told LBC News.
“I won’t comment on the specific case that you mention because that wouldn’t be right to do in detail, but it would be fair to say, correct to say, that we face threats of this type that are different, they are more sophisticated, they are more extensive than they ever have been before.
“The face of espionage, the face of spying, is very different from when you and I were growing up and we need to constantly upgrade our capability. These are very serious matters,” he added.
Russia defends itself over accusations of stealing AstraZeneca vaccine blueprint
Russia defended itself at the time the accusations were first made against them last year, lambasting the British’s “95 percent sure” remark as being arbitrary and unfounded:
“The British say that they are almost certain, or 95 percent, confident in what they say,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said to the press. “Why not 96 percent? Or 94 percent? It seems their security services have very peculiar calculation methods.”
Popular Russian television host Olga Skabeyeva picked up the same line of defense, saying on her show that “We’re told bloodthirsty Russian spies tried to abduct a British vaccine, we’re told that the confidence has gone up a level to ‘almost certainly’, or 95 percent. So when they accused Russia of all kinds of crimes before, does it mean they were even less sure?”
Tory MP Bob Seely, who specializes in Russia, told The Sun that Britain must “Get serious about Russian and Chinese espionage.
“Whether it is stealing the design for AstraZeneca or blackmailing us over energy by these authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, we need to get wise to them,” Seely warned.
North Korea was also accused of using hackers to attempt to gain access to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine research.
The hackers attempted to lure AstraZeneca employees into communication with them by posing as job recruiters. They sent files they claimed were job descriptions to their targets. The documents actually contained code designed to compromise the employee’s computers.
These attempts were found to be unsuccessful.