Iranian hackers targeted staff at a U.S. pharmaceutical company working on a drug cure for the COVID-19 virus.
The breach at Gilead Sciences was discovered by an Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky. Other cybersecurity researchers confirmed the hack.
The reports did not disclose whether or not the Iranian hackers were successful.
Yet, the attack shows that even during a global pandemic (which has hit Iran hard) and crushing American sanctions, the Islamic Republic has not let up from its nefarious schemes.
The hacking group, called “Charming Kitten,” was trying to compromise email accounts at Gilead, a tactic they have used previously against other companies.
The web domains and hosting servers of the hacking group were all linked to Iran.
“Access to even just the email of staff at a cutting-edge Western pharmaceutical company could give … the Iranian government an advantage in developing treatments and countering the disease,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, a former analyst with the U.S. National Security Agency, speaking to Reuters.
“Last week we discovered that they are acting against the infrastructure of the American research institute Gilead, and we determined that they are trying to hurt other research bodies that are dealing with coronavirus, including in Israel,” said ClearSky’s Ohad Zaidenberg.
Israeli government officials stated that the attack against the water company “crossed a red line” and was seen as a “major escalation” by Iran since it targeted civilian infrastructure.
An official with the U.S. Energy Department said Iranian hackers routed the attack through servers located in the United States.
The attack was thwarted by the water company’s cyber division and all affected websites were immediately told to change their passwords and take steps to stop any breach in progress; other sites were directed to take pre-emptive action and go offline.
“This is an attack that goes against all the codes of war,” a senior Israeli official said, speaking to Channel 13 news. “Even from the Iranians we didn’t expect something like this.”
Meanwhile, Israeli air force strikes against Iranian targets in Syria are reportedly forcing the Islamic Republic out of the country. According to Israeli sources, officials said, “For the first time since Iran entered Syria, it is reducing its forces there and evacuating bases.”
Israel’s goal is to turn Iran from an asset to a burden for Syria and maintain pressure on Iran until it leaves the country.
“For the first time since Iran entered Syria, it is reducing its forces there and evacuating bases.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to the priority of the operation. “For Iran, Syria is an adventure a thousand miles from home, for us it’s our lives.”
“We are much more determined” than Iran, he stated.