MUMBAI: The Chinese disruptive attempts are not restricted to inflicting power outages but also hacking IT systems of Indian vaccine makers. Two such companies which the Chinese have ambushed in recent times are the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker. The coronavirus shots being rolled out by these two firms are the centrepiece of the country's immunisation campaign. Goldman Sachs-backed cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma told Reuters that the Chinese hacking group APT10, also known as Stone Panda, had identified gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure and supply chain software of the two vaccine makers.
"The real motivation here is actually exfiltrating intellectual property and getting competitive advantage over Indian pharmaceutical companies," said Cyfirma Chief Executive Kumar Ritesh, formerly a top cyber official with British foreign intelligence agency MI6.
He said APT10 was actively targeting SII, which is making the AstraZeneca vaccine for many countries and will soon start bulk-manufacturing Novavax shots.
In the case of Serum, the hackers have taken advantage of the weak public servers. SII and Bharat Biotech declined to comment, reports Reuters. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately reply either.
The US Department of Justice had revealed in 2018 that APT10 had acted in tandem with the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Incidentally, Microsoft said in November that it had detected cyberattacks emanating from Russia and North Korea targeting COVID-19 vaccine companies in India, Canada, France, South Korea and the United States.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN shot, developed with the State-run Indian Council of Medical Research, will be exported to many countries, including Brazil.