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Hackers Target German Firm Tasked With Procuring COVID-19 Medical Equipment

One of the several multinational corporations enlisted by the German government to help it obtain personal protective equipment (PPE) for the care of COVID-19 patients has been targeted in an ongoing phishing campaign, IBM reported on Monday.

According to IBM, a threat actor has targeted more than 100 high-ranking people within this company, which is part of Germany's Task Force Personal Protective Equipment (TFPSA), whose members leverage their contact networks, particularly in China, to secure PPE.

The attackers have targeted executives within the organization, as well as its supply chain partners, and IBM believes the same group likely also targeted other members of the task force. IBM says it has notified German authorities.

The company targeted in the attack has not been named, but the task force’s members include BASF, Volkswagen, Lufthansa, logistics firm Fiege, and retailer Otto.

IBM spotted the first attack against the company on March 30, the same day German officials held talks with the members of the task force. The activity was traced back to an IP address in Russia, which researchers linked to more than 280 URLs that point to fake Microsoft login pages designed to phish users’ credentials. The harvested credentials are then sent to email accounts hosted by the Russia-based company Yandex.

Phishing page targeting German company

It’s worth noting that while the attack involves a Russian IP address and exfiltration is done via a Russian service, it does not necessarily mean that the attack was launched by a Russian threat actor as it’s not uncommon for sophisticated hacker groups to plant fake evidence to throw investigators off track.

An analysis of the URLs showed that they were sent to executives working for the company — the targets included people working in operations, finance and procurement — as well as executives at this company’s partners, including European and American organizations in the transport, chemical manufacturing, medical, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, finance, and communications sectors.

IBM says it’s unclear how many users entered their username and password on the phishing pages, but the email accounts of the targeted individuals could store valuable information, including data that can be used to conduct further activities within the compromised network.

“Given the worldwide spread of COVID-19 and fears of a pending second wave of infection, it is highly likely criminal and state-sponsored actors alike will seek to exploit global procurement and supply chains with the intention of either profiting from the crisis or supporting the acquisition activities of their host nation,” IBM researchers said in a blog post.

This is not the first report of attacks targeting entities involved in the response to the coronavirus crisis. Google warned in April that state-sponsored hackers had been exploiting the outbreak to attack healthcare and other organizations involved in the fight against the pandemic.

A few weeks later, the US and UK issued a joint alert to warn that sophisticated threat groups had been targeting organizations involved in the national and international response to COVID-19. Then, one week later, the US accused Chinese hackers of trying to steal research and intellectual property related to treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus.

Related: NATO Condemns Cyberattacks Against COVID-19 Responders

Related: Governments Asked to Stop Cyberattacks on Healthcare Systems

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.