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A volunteer receives the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. John Cairns / University of Oxford / AP

North Korean hackers are believed to have carried out a cyberattack against British coronavirus vaccine developer AstraZeneca in recent weeks, Reuters revealed on Friday citing two anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter.

North Korean hackers have posed as recruiters on networking site LinkedIn and WhatsApp to approach AstraZeneca staff – including those working on coronavirus research – with bogus offers, Reuters said. ’employment.

The suspected hackers then sent documents – some using Russian email addresses – claiming to be job descriptions that were actually interspersed with malicious code designed to give hackers access to the victim’s computers, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters sources, the hackers do not appear to have succeeded.

While AstraZeneca declined to comment on the matter, the University of Oxford – which is working with the drugmaker to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus – told CNN in a statement that the university is working closely. with the UK National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC). to ensure its protection.

“The University of Oxford is working closely with the National Cyber ​​Security Center to ensure that our COVID-19 research provides the best possible cybersecurity and protection,” a university spokesperson told CNN .

The NCSC did not comment directly on the matter, but told CNN on Friday it was “committed to protecting our most critical assets, the healthcare industry, as well as critical vaccine research and development from threats. “.

CNN has contacted the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva for an official comment, but has yet to receive a response.

In a telephone conversation with CNN, a member of the mission’s staff said the Reuters report was “fake news”, alleging that the information had been “fabricated”.

The report comes after a South Korean lawmaker said the country had also thwarted North Korean attempts to hack its own pharmaceutical companies working on coronavirus vaccines.

Speaking on Friday, lawmaker Ha Tae-Keung did not specify when the hack took place or which drug companies were targeted, but confirmed that North Korea had attempted to hack South Korean drug companies that are developing drugs. local coronavirus vaccines.

CNN International correspondent David Culver reports:

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