The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has accused Russian spies of trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine being developed in laboratories in Oxford and America.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, security services have warned that Russian spies were targeting organisations trying to develop coronavirus vaccine in the UK, US and Canada,

The UK’s NCSC said the hackers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services.”

The UK, US and Canadian agencies said the hackers had exploited software flaws to get access to vulnerable computer systems and had used malware called WellMess and WellMail to upload and download files from infected machines.

They were also said to have tricked individuals into handing over login credentials with spear-phishing attacks.

“Phishing emails are designed to trick the recipient into handing over their personal information. Spear phishing is a targeted and personalised form of the attack, designed to trick a specific individual. Often the email appears to come from a trusted contact, and may include some personal information to make the message seem more convincing,” UK’s NCSC said.

The NCSC calls out a hacking group called APT29, also known as The Dukes or Cozy Bear. It says it is more than 95 per cent certain that the group is part of the Russian intelligence services.