Cyber attacks from Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors backed by nation-states that are focused on gathering intel on Covid-19 research are on the rise, according to the Global Threat Intelligence Center (GTIC) Monthly Threat Report by technology company NTT Ltd.

“Attacks from Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors continued to be on the rise, despite Covid-19; in fact, the virus has added fuel to the fire and has provided a cover for their operations. Organisations and industries that are considered as essential were increasingly targeted: power grids, oil and gas, postal and delivery services, first responders and law enforcement — assets which are even more valuable during a global crisis,” the report said.

It further added that APT groups with links to Iran have attempted to breach the World Health Organization (WHO) through phishing campaigns. This cyber attack was likely an attempt to gather vital information on testing, treatments, or vaccines from the UN health agency.

Other objectives of such threat actors include extortion, espionage, financial gain and disinformation.

“Companies researching the disease should expect to be targeted, whether for purposes of medical advantage to better treat or prevent Covid-19, for monetary gain or purely to inhibit the target from making progress,” the report said.

In another instance, APT32 attackers linked to the Vietnam government have been reportedly targeting China. According to the report, the cyber attack is a result of the country’s “perceived lack of accurate information dissemination during, and the overall handling of the initial outbreak.”

Apart from Covid-19 related cyber crimes, normal APT operations have been afoot during the pandemic. The need for cyber security has been further enhanced as businesses go digital.

“As the threat landscape evolves, even organisations that may not be considered an essential service cannot let their guard down. Enterprises must continue to adopt best practices and build awareness in both their network environment and their global state of things,” it said.