'Irresponsible behavior': China's Foreign Ministry denies report stating Chinese hackers 'actively targeting' Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech

China's foreign ministry denied allegations by cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma that a state-backed hacking group has in recent weeks targeted the IT systems of two Indian vaccine makers whose coronavirus shots are being used in the country's immunisation campaign, reported Reuters.

Wang Wenbin, Spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said "Without any proof, slandering a specific side is irresponsible behavior and an ill-intentioned one."

Earlier, a report by the cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma stated that a Chinese state-backed hacking group has targeted the IT systems of India's two largest COVID-19 vaccine makers.

Serum Institute's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN are the two vaccines being used in the COVID-19 vaccination drive that began in January.

India produces more than 60% of all the vaccines sold in the world. And China and India both have been selling or gifting COVID-19 vaccine to other countries.

As per reports by Cyfirma which is backed by Goldman Sachs and based in Singapore and Tokyo, a Chinese hacking group APT10, also known as Stone Panda, identified gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure of Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech.

Cyfirma recently launched a report titled "Threat Landscape for Pharmaceutical Companies".

As per the report, currently, there are 15 active hacking campaigns underway.

They uncovered cyber attack campaigns originating from Russia, China, North Korea, and the Middle East targeting 12 countries including India to steal Covid vaccine research data, patient info, clinical trials data, supply chain and vaccine production information.

The target companies are the top pharma companies in India, the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Taiwan and Mexico.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is also known as the big reset where the way we work, play and lives have seen a massive paradigm shift," said the report.

"The healthcare industry, and particularly, pharmaceutical companies, has been thrust directly under global spotlight. While the world stumbles in its search for recovery, cybercriminals lurking in the dark web have seized the global event to profit from the climate of fear and uncertainty," it added.

Cyfirma's Chief Executive Kumar Ritesh, who is a former top cyber official with British foreign intelligence agency MI6, said that the real motivation here is exfiltrating intellectual property and getting competitive advantage over Indian pharma firms.

He added that the group was targeting SII quite actively.

No comment has been made by SII or Bharat Biotech so far.

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