Britain, the United States and Canada on Thursday accused Russia on Thursday of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
The three nations alleged that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and said to be part of the Russian intelligence service, is attacking academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre made the announcement, which was coordinated with authorities in the U.S. and Canada.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,'' British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the U.K. and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.''
The persistent and ongoing attacks are seen by intelligence officials as an effort to steal intellectual property, rather than to disrupt research.
The campaign of “malicious activity'' is ongoing and includes attacks “predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets,'' the National Cybersecurity Centre said in a statement.
It was unclear whether any information actually was stolen but the center says individuals’ confidential information is not believed to have been compromised.
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cozy Bear, also known as the “dukes,″ has been identified by Washington as one of two Russian government-linked hacking groups that broke into the Democratic National Committee computer network and stole emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The other group is usually called Fancy Bear.
The director of operations for the British cybersecurity center, Paul Chichester, urged “organizations to familiarize themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks.”
The statement did not say whether Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about the vaccine research hacking, but British officials believe such intelligence would be highly prized.
A 16-page advisory prepared by the U.S. National Security Agency and made public by Britain, the U.S. and Canada on Thursday accuses Cozy Bear of using custom malicious software to target a number of organizations globally.
The malware, called WellMess and WellMail, has not previously been associated with the hacking group, the advisory said.
A state-owned Chinese company has been testing their vaccines on their employees, including top executives, even before the government approved testing in people in the global race to make a coronavirus vaccine, reports AP.
“Giving a helping hand in forging the sword of victory,” reads an online post from SinoPharm with pictures of workers it says helped “pre-test” its vaccine.
The claim underscores the enormous stakes as China competes with US and British companies to be the first with a vaccine to help end the pandemic. It will be both a scientific and political triumph.
China has positioned itself to be a strong contender. Eight of the nearly two dozen potential vaccines in various stages of human testing worldwide are from China. And SinoPharm and another Chinese company already have announced they are entering final testing.
SinoPharm’s claim that 30 “special volunteers” rolled up their sleeves even before the company got permission for its initial human study raises ethical concerns among Western observers.
“The idea of people willing to sacrifice themselves ... is pretty much expected in China,” said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US nonprofit organisation.
Religious minorities in Pakistan witnessed a tough month while observers warn of even tougher times ahead as Prime Minister Imran Khan vacillates between trying to forge a pluralistic nation and his conservative Islamic beliefs, reports AP.
A Christian was gunned down because he rented in a Muslim neighbourhood in northwest Peshawar, not far from the border with Afghanistan.
Another Christian, pastor Haroon Sadiq Cheeda, his wife and 12-year-old son were beaten by their Muslim neighbours in eastern Punjab and told to leave their village. The attackers screamed “you are infidels.”
“Imran Khan no doubt wants a more tolerant Pakistan, wants more accommodation for minorities, but the problem is he nullifies all of this by empowering extremist elements, so much so that it seems they can dictate to the state,” said Zahid Hussain, analyst and author of two books that track militancy in the region.
The spokesman for Khan’s religious affairs ministry, Imran Siddiqui, dismissed complaints that minorities have reason to be concerned. He said in every religion there are “aggressive” clerics but neither Pakistan nor the prime minister were unduly pressured by them.
The most vulnerable of Pakistan’s minorities are Ahmadis, in Pakistan it is illegal for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom declared Pakistan a “country of particular concern” in its 2020 report released last month because of its treatment of minorities.
The report said Pakistan would have to end a ban on texts and publications of Ahmadis if it wants to get off the commission’s watch list as well as re-examine the cases of many non-Muslims and Muslims facing blasphemy charges.
China's domestically-developed marine observation satellites will study the distribution of coral reefs in the South China Sea, and facilitate their protection and restoration.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that the National Satellite Ocean Application Service will cooperate with a coral reef research centre in Guangxi University to monitor coral reefs in the South China Sea with the help of marine satellite and high-resolution satellite data, reports Xinhua.
They will combine sea surface temperature data obtained from remote sensing satellites to locate the coral reef bleaching and analyse surrounding sea temperature, providing support for coral reef protection and restoration in the South China Sea.
According to the report, the South China Sea has seen coral reef degradation in the past 50 years, and the monitoring of the coral reef ecosystem is critical for the management and sustainable development of coral reef resources.
The British Court of Appeal on Thursday ruled that ISIS bride Shamima Begum could be allowed to come to the UK to appeal against the removal of her British citizenship, reports The Independent.
Her citizenship was revoked by the Home Office on security grounds as she was found in a refugee camp last year.
Shamima, 20, is currently in Camp Roj in Northern Syria.
In February 2015, Shamima left her home with two other teenagers, Kadiza Sultana, then 16, and Amira Abase, then 15, and travelled to Syria to join ISIS.
She was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp. Later, she gave birth a baby boy, who died later.
The then British home secretary, Sajid Javid, stripped her of her British citizenship later that month.
However, Shamima Begum’s lawyers appealed the decision. Her lawyers also accused the government of making her stateless and exposing her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
They appealed to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) but it ruled the move lawful and said Shamima had not been made stateless.
The Court of Appeal on Thursday granted Shamima permission to launch a judiciary review against that decision.
“Ms Begum should be allowed to come to the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal albeit subject to such controls as the Secretary of State deems appropriate,” it added.
Questions had also risen in Bangladesh about Shamima’s citizenship as her father was once a Bangladeshi.
However, Bangladesh has nothing to do with Shamima, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said in February.
He also said that Shamima is neither a Bangladeshi citizen nor a dual citizen of the two countries. Her father was once a Bangladeshi and then took the British citizenship. But they never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh.
She will not be allowed to enter Bangladesh, said the FM.