The controversy over North Korea’s cyberattack on Pfizer to steal Covid-19 vaccine data continues as a lawmaker and the state intelligence agency insist on contradictory claims.
Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the opposition People Power Party, a member of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that North Korea had launched a cyberattack on the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer to steal the company’s Covid-19 vaccine information.
However, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that it reported the North’s cyberattacks to hack into South Korean pharmaceutical companies to access Covid-19 vaccine and therapies technology. The intelligence agency explained that it did not mention that North Korea hacked into Pfizer during the report.
In response, Rep. Ha uploaded an image of his handwritten memo taken during the report, stressing that Pfizer was mentioned in the NIS presentation.
The spy agency countered that the company’s name was only shown on the data displayed when it began the presentation, insisting it did not refer to a specific drugmaker.
In November, Microsoft issued a warning against North Korean cyberattacks targeting companies and researchers worldwide involved in Covid-19 vaccine development. The North Korean hacker crew tried to steal details from drug developers in various countries, including South Korea, Canada, France, India, and the U.S.
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology company, BioNTech, is one of the few vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no Covid-19 cases. North Korea has its borders with China closed since January last year in a national effort to prevent infection. It also has been restricting domestic traveling or movement.
However, North Korea is set to receive about two million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The instrument covering 92 lower-income countries included North Korea in the Covid-19 vaccine distribution project. In theory, the country can immunize 996,000 people, about 4 percent of its population, with the vaccines.
Pfizer, the alleged target of the North Korean hacking attempts, has not commented about the South Korean government’s report.