Cyber Intel Report  |  March  2021

Australia & New Zealand
Logistics Industry Threat Report

Prepared by the CyberCX Cyber Intelligence team

Cyber Adversaries Target COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain

Healthcare organisations in general, but more recently the biotech companies involved in COVID-19 vaccine R&D, have become a prime target of cyber attackers interested in exploiting sectors critical to the ongoing pandemic.¹ However, while previous attacks targeted the vaccine makers directly,² adversaries are now interested in also hitting their supply chains. This suggests they are looking for information on how to transport and store vaccines, not only how to make them.

“Cold chain logistics play a critical role in distributing the newly developed vaccines in a safe manner. We anticipate that ransomware attacks on ANZ companies involved in the vaccine supply chain will increase following the start of mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, as will the activity of threat actors interested in collecting intelligence around the COVID-19 cold chain logistics efforts.”

As we near the final stages of development and distribution of multiple vaccines, the logistics sector is becoming ever-more critical in the pandemic response as it is responsible for ensuring vaccines reach patients in disparate geographic areas. The majority of COVID-19 vaccines currently under development are RNA-based,³ meaning they will spoil if they heat to an inappropriate temperature. Because of their highly perishable nature, they must be kept under tightly controlled, very cold temperatures from the moment they are made to the moment they are administered to the patient. This is particularly true for the Pfizer vaccine, for which the Australian Federal Government has secured a supply of several millions, due to be distributed in Q2 of 2021.4

1 https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55249353
2 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-healthcare-coronavirus-astrazeneca-no/exclusive-suspected-north-korean-hackers-targeted-covid-vaccine-maker-astrazeneca-sources-idUSKBN2871A2
3 https://globalbiodefense.com/2020/10/05/the-challenges-of-vaccine-cold-chain-distribution-must-be-met-to-end-the-pandemic/
4 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-24/australia-signs-deals-to-distribute-millions-of-covid-19-vaccine/13011476