North Korea Hacked Pfizer in Bid for Vaccine Data, Seoul Says


North Korea hacked Pfizer Inc. for information on its Covid-19 vaccine and treatments, South Korean lawmakers said after a briefing by the country’s spy agency.

The National Intelligence Service released the information Tuesday during a closed-door briefing to a parliamentary intelligence committee, lawmakers said. “Pfizer got hacked,” Ha Tae-keung, an opposition lawmaker who was among the committee members briefed, told reporters in Seoul.

Microsoft Corp. said in November that hackers from North Korea, as well as Russia, had targeted seven prominent companies working on the Covid-19 vaccine and treatment research. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE later said that documents related to their vaccine development had been targeted in a cyberattack on the European Medicines Agency, adding that none of their own systems had been breached.

While North Korea’s official line is that it has had no cases of Covid-19, officials from the U.S., Japan and others have cast doubts on the claim that the country has escaped the pandemic without a single infection. Covid-19 brings large risk to the impoverished state, whose antiquated medical systems could be easily overwhelmed.

Kim has shown his worries about the virus, closing borders about a year ago with neighboring China at the time Pyongyang’s biggest benefactor was the epicenter of the outbreak. That has slammed the breaks on the little legal trade North Korea has with its main economic partner, pushing the economy toward its largest contraction in more than two decades, according to Fitch Solutions.

North Korea’s trade with China fell 99% year on year in the final quarter of 2020, the spy agency told lawmakers, according to Ha, an opposition lawmaker. The regime is set to face a crop shortage of 1 million tons this year, with demand expecting to reach 5.5 million tons.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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