At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, IBM Security X-Force created a threat intelligence task force dedicated to tracking down COVID-19 cyber threats against organizations that are keeping the vaccine supply chain moving.
The IBM team recently uncovered a global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with a COVID-19 cold chain. The cold chain is a component of the vaccine supply chain that ensures the safe preservation of vaccines in temperature-controlled environments during their storage and transportation.
IBM analysis indicates that this calculated operation started in September 2020. The COVID-19 phishing campaign spanned across six countries and targeted organizations likely associated with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance’s Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform (CCEOP) program.
While firm attribution could not be established for this campaign, the precision targeting of executives and key global organizations hold the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft.
Some details from IBM Security X-Force’s analysis of this activity include:
- The Cover Story — The adversary impersonated a business executive from Haier Biomedical, a credible and legitimate member company of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain and qualified supplier for the CCEOP program. The company is purportedly the world’s only complete cold chain provider. Disguised as this employee, the adversary sent phishing emails to organizations believed to be providers of material support to meet transportation needs within the COVID-19 cold chain. We assess that the purpose of this COVID-19 phishing campaign may have been to harvest credentials, possibly to gain future unauthorized access to corporate networks and sensitive information relating to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
- The Targets — The targets included the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union, as well as organizations within the energy, manufacturing, website creation and software and internet security solutions sectors. These are global organizations headquartered in Germany, Italy, South Korea, Czech Republic, greater Europe and Taiwan.
- The How — Spear-phishing emails were sent to select executives in sales, procurement, information technology and finance positions, likely involved in company efforts to support a vaccine cold chain. We also identified instances where this activity extended organization-wide to include help and support pages of targeted organizations.
IBM Security X-Force has followed responsible disclosure protocols and notified the appropriate entities and authorities about this targeted operation.
Story via IBM