In a charge that seems like a throwback to the Cold War era, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has said that Russian spies are targeting western health organisations which are trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine and steal the research.

The UK body did not specify which organisations had been targeted, or whether any information had been stolen. But sources said a Russian hacking group called APT29, which also goes by the name "the Dukes" or "Cozy Bear," is on their radar.

Cozy Bear is one of two hacking groups linked to Russian intelligence that is believed to have accessed the Democratic National Committee's internal systems in the run up to the 2016 US election, but Thursday's announcement is the first time this group has been named in connection with cyberattacks related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia "has nothing to do" with the hacking attacks. "We do not have information about who may have hacked into pharmaceutical companies and research centres in Great Britain. We can say one thing - Russia has nothing at all to do with these attempts," said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Putin, according to the Tass news agency.

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