Hackers with links to Iran have targeted a U.S. drugmaker working on a potential coronavirus treatment, Reuters news agency reported on Friday. The US drugmaker Gilead Sciences, whose antiviral drug remdesivir has shown promising results in treating coronavirus patients, came repeatedly under cyber attack from servers based in Iran in recent weeks, media reports reveal.

Gilead’s antiviral drug “remdesivir is the only treatment that has been shown to have even a potential effect on the disease,” the USA Today reported on April 30. The company, based in Foster City, California, is on the verge of rolling out a coronavirus treatment for general use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already authorized the use of the drug in case of seriously ill patients, bringing it a step closer to full approval.

Iran-linked hackers tried to “compromise staff email accounts by using messages that impersonated journalists,” Reuters reported. The attempted breach were discovered by analysts from the Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, who traced the web domains and serves used by the hackers back to Iran. The latest Iranian cyber attack is part of a “growing trend in which state-backed hackers have been gathering intelligence related to coronavirus and a possible treatment,” the Forbes Magazine noted.

Reuters detailed the Iranian cyber attack on California-based drug manufacturer:

Hackers linked to Iran have targeted staff at U.S. drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc in recent weeks, according to publicly-available web archives reviewed by Reuters and three cybersecurity researchers, as the company races to deploy a treatment for the COVID-19 virus.

In one case, a fake email login page designed to steal passwords was sent in April to a top Gilead executive involved in legal and corporate affairs, according to an archived version on a website used to scan for malicious web addresses. Reuters was not able to determine whether the attack was successful.

Ohad Zaidenberg, lead intelligence researcher at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, who closely tracks Iranian hacking activity and has investigated the attacks, said the attempt was part of an effort by an Iranian group to compromise email accounts of staff at the company using messages that impersonated journalists.

Two other cybersecurity researchers, who were not authorized to speak publicly about their analysis, confirmed that the web domains and hosting servers used in the hacking attempts were linked to Iran. (…)

Britain and the United States warned this week that state-backed hackers are attacking pharmaceutical companies and research institutions working on treatments for the new disease.

The joint statement did not name any of the attacked organizations, but two people familiar with the matter said one of the targets was Gilead, whose antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment so far proven to help patients infected with COVID-19.

The United States is leading the world in finding a cure for the contagion which first appeared in central China late last year. “We are very confident that we’re going to have a vaccine… by the end of the year,” President Donald Trump said at a town hall meeting last Sunday. Israel and the European countries are also working towards developing a vaccine and cure for the virus.

Communist China, which first tried to cover up the outbreak in Wuhan city, turned down a European offer to jointly work on a treatment and research. In response to an EU-led request for assistance, Beijing refused to “make any successful vaccine [developed by Chinese researchers] a common public good,” the South China Morning Post newspaper reported on May 5.

The hacker attack on the U.S. drugmaker comes at a time when Tehran is expanding its cyber capabilities. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), regime’s armed wing, placed its first military satellite into orbit last month. The Shia-Islamic regime has been ramping up its technological capabilities with Chinese and North Korean help.

Despite U.S. sanctions, Communist China remains Tehran’s biggest trading partner. The coronavirus pandemic has only deepened the nexus between Iran’s Islamic regime and Communist China.

Tehran has been at the forefront of spreading Chinese disinformation about the Coronavirus pandemic. Echoing Beijing’s propaganda, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei accused the U.S. of creating the Wuhan Coronavirus. The Wuhan virus was “specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians,” Khamenei, who is the spiritual leader of close to 200 million Shia Muslim’s worldwide, said in a bizarre rant on March 22. The Iranian leader was referring to a similar claim made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who suggested that U.S. military may have planted the deadly virus in central China.

President Trump, FDA and Gilead CEO discuss the emergency authorization for coronavirus drug Remdesivir (May 1)

[Cover image via YouTube]


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