Friday, December 4, 2020

Logistics a Weak Link as Attack on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Chain Reaffirms Need for Cyber Vigilance

Not Some Random Hack as Unspecified National Intelligence Service Suspected of Responsibility
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – An unknown (or unnamed) nation state has been conducting a sophisticated phishing attack targeting companies involved in the cold supply chain for distributing supplies of the coronavirus vaccines.

According to IBM, specific targeted individuals working for companies involved in the Cold Chain Equipment Optimisation Platform (CCEOP) were sent cleverly crafted emails. These purported to be from a named senior executive at a company which is genuinely involved in the project, China’s Haier Biomedical, using an address that, at first sight, seemed genuine.

The CCEOP was set up in 2015 to coordinate the huge logistical challenge of producing, shipping and administering vaccines around the world. As such it will play an important role in the global vaccination project, with freight companies making a critical part in its composition.

Although full details of those actively targeted have not been released, it is reported that a number of them are involved in vaccine transportation and logistics.

The attack began in September and marks a transition in cyber operations concerning the Coronavirus vaccine. In July the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported that they had identified Russian state-based attacks on pharmaceutical companies involved in coronavirus vaccine development.

With security ramped up at the research centres worldwide as a result, it appears that cyber-attacks are refocusing on logistics companies as the weak link in the supply chain in terms of their online security. The belief is that the aggressive actors are seeking information on national strategies on distribution and policy.

The international freight and shipping industry has plenty of experience in the damage that malicious hackers and ransomware attacks can have. However now it seems that the level of threat may be escalating, as professional hackers, trained members of national militaries and/or security services are being tasked to exploit what could easily prove the weak spot in the international infrastructure - logistics.

With so many organisations involved and no set security standards, it behoves not just the companies themselves to look at improving their cyber defences, but indeed each individual working within them. Everyone needs to be educated on the threat and on the measures they need to take to protect not just themselves, but also their employers and customers.In particular email addresses need to be recognised down to the last full stop or hyphen.

The US's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published a guide that is recommended reading for anyone involved in online activities – which effectively is everyone reading this article.

Additionally, readers in the UK who believe they are subject to a phishing scam/attack can report it to the NCSC HERE.