.
.
.
.
Coronavirus

North Korea ‘tried to hack Pfizer’, say S.Korea spies: Reports

Published: Updated:

North Korean hackers tried to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a search for information on a coronavirus vaccine and treatment technology, South Korea’s spy agency said Tuesday, according to reports.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The impoverished, nuclear-armed North has been under self-imposed isolation since closing its borders in January last year to try to protect itself from the virus that first emerged in neighboring China and has gone on to sweep the world, killing more than two million people.

Leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts doubt those assertions.

This picture taken on January 10, 2021 released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 11, 2021 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AFP)
This picture taken on January 10, 2021 released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 11, 2021 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AFP)

And the closure has added to the pressure on its tottering economy from international sanctions imposed over its banned weapons systems, increasing the urgency for Pyongyang to find a way to deal with the disease.

Seoul’s National Intelligence Service “briefed us that North Korea tried to obtain technology involving the Covid vaccine and treatment by using cyberwarfare to hack into Pfizer”, MP Ha Tae-keung told reporters after a hearing behind closed doors.

North Korea is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who have attacked firms, institutions and researchers in the South and elsewhere.

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, developed jointly with Germany’s BioNTech, began winning approval from authorities late last year.

It is based on technology that uses the synthetic version of a molecule called “messenger RNA” to hack into human cells and effectively turn them into vaccine-making factories.

Pfizer says it expects to potentially deliver up to 2 billion doses in 2021.

The company’s South Korean office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by AFP.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Read more:

North Korea stole $300 million in crypto to fund nuclear programs: UN experts

South Korea says documents of building nuclear plant in North Korea 'just an idea'

Google says North Korea-backed hackers sought cyber research