Seoul | North Korean hackers have sought to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to find information on the vaccine and treatments for the coronavirus, media reported on Tuesday citing South Korean intelligence.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) “has informed us that North Korea has attempted to obtain technologies including the vaccine and COVID treatments through a cyber attack to hack Pfizer,” told reporters MP Ha Tae-keung.
Pyongyang was the first country in the world to close its borders at the end of January 2020 in an attempt to protect itself from the pandemic that appeared in December 2019 in neighboring China and which has since swept across the entire planet, killing more of two million people.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says the country has not seen any cases of coronavirus contamination, but experts believe the claim is unlikely given that neighboring China is Pyongyang’s main trading and support partner.
The closing of the borders has increased the pressure on the North Korean economy, already subject to international sanctions due to the nuclear and ballistic program developed by the communist regime.
According to Western experts, North Korea has an army of several thousand highly trained hackers who have already attacked companies, institutions and research centers, especially in South Korea.
Pyongyang has also stolen more than $ 300 million in cryptocurrency in recent months through computer attacks intended to finance its banned nuclear and ballistic programs, according to a confidential UN report released a few days ago.
While claiming to be free of the virus, North Korea recently applied for vaccines against COVID-19, of which it is expected to receive nearly two million doses, according to the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), a member of the UN program. Covax, which coordinates the distribution of vaccines to poor countries.
This is the first official confirmation that Pyongyang has asked for international aid, when North Korea’s medical infrastructure is considered totally inadequate to cope with a large-scale epidemic.