By Emeka Nze
North Korea has attempted to hack pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to steal its COVID-19 vaccine proprietary information, according to the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
“The spy agency briefed us the North tried to obtain technology involving the coronavirus vaccine and treatment by using cyberwarfare against Pfizer,” Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the main opposition People Power Party who is a member of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, said after a meeting of the committee with the NIS behind closed doors.
He added the secretive state also attempted to hack into South Korean companies developing coronavirus vaccines; but did not elaborate on whether such attempts were successful.
Pfizer’s offices in Asia and South Korea did not make any immediate comment.
The revelation comes despite the North’s repeated claims it has zero cases of COVID-19, although outside experts doubt such assertions.
According to Ha, an average of 158,000 attempted cyberattacks from the North have been reported per day, up 32 percent from 2020.
The lawmaker said most attempts were blocked by the NIS in cooperation with the relevant organizations.
The cash-strapped North has been accused of nurturing hackers to steal cash and virtual money.
Some experts speculated that the hackers might be more interested in selling the stolen vaccine data rather than using it to develop a localized vaccine.
Meanwhile, the NIS also reported the North recently enacted a law aimed at preventing the influx of hallyu, or South Korean pop culture, into the country and toughening the punishment for any violators.
The enactment is in accordance with its leader Kim Jong-un’s criticism of any anti-socialist movements within the secretive state.
“Those who bring and distribute hallyu content into the country could now be subject to the death penalty. The prison term for those who watch the content was also increased from five year to 15,” Ha said.