İrem UZUN -TDO- U.S., British and Canadian officials accused the Kremlin Thursday of being behind a massive and ongoing cyber hack aimed at stealing from Western pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions doing research into coronavirus vaccines and treatment therapies. In a joint statement, the governments of all three countries said the hacking operation started in February and has been unrelenting since.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), in particular, said the hackers "almost certainly" operated as "part of Russian intelligence services". It did not specify which organizations had been targeted, or whether any information had been stolen. The NCSC accused a group called APT29 - also known as "the Dukes" or "Cozy Bear" - for the attacks on coronavirus research facilities.

“APT29 has a long history of targeting governmental, diplomatic, think tank, health care and energy organizations for intelligence gain, so we encourage everyone to take this threat seriously and apply the mitigations issued in the advisory,” Anne Neuberger, cybersecurity director at the U.S. National Security Agency, said in a statement.

All three Western allies are working to try to protect coronavirus-related research and are issuing new cybersecurity advice to pharmaceutical firms, universities and other research institutes.   “We would urge organizations to familiarize themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks,” added in the statement.

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