Russia has tried to steal information and intellectual property from researchers working on a COVID-19 vaccine, cyber security agencies in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are alleging.
The major national security and intelligence threat was identified by the three countries as the result of “Russian cyber threat activity” directed at organizations that are doing research into and development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.
“These malicious cyber activities were very likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines, and serve to hinder response efforts at a time when healthcare experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic,” said the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in a statement.
The top cyber and national security agencies—including the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security—jointly allege that APT29, also known as “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear” which the agency says “almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services,” was responsible for the malicious activity.
In a technical advisory released Thursday, the agencies spell out how the Russian actors used malware known as “WellMess” and “WellMail” to target global organizations by scanning computer IP addresses for potential vulnerabilities to access information like login credentials.
“This broad targeting potentially gives the group access to a large number of systems globally, many of which are unlikely to be of immediate intelligence value. The group may maintain a store of stolen credentials in order to access these systems in the event that they become more relevant to their requirements in the future,” reads the advisory.
“The group uses a variety of tools and techniques to predominantly target governmental, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets for intelligence gain,” according to the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
MINISTERS CONDEMN ‘RECKLESS ACTIONS’
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan praised the agencies for calling out the “bad behavior,” and deterring other malicious foreign actors from targeting Canadian intelligence.
NCSC Director of Operations Paul Chichester condemned the “despicable attacks,” against those working to combat the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the U.K. stands with Canada and the U.S. “against the reckless actions of Russia’s intelligence services, who we have exposed today for committing cyberattacks against those working on a #Covid19 vaccine.” He said the hackers sought to undermine the international work underway to defeat the pandemic that to date has killed nearly 585,000 people worldwide.
It remains unclear whether the attempts were successful in stealing any information. In a statement to CTV News, CSE said that in regards to these hacking attempts the agency is offering support and mitigation services, “to limit impacts to targeted organizations.”
“On any given day, CSE’s dynamic defence capabilities block up to two billion reconnaissance scans on these systems,” CSE spokesperson Evan Koronewski said in the statement.
The three countries are now imploring all research facilities and other agencies involved in coronavirus research to take further actions to protect their information and contact CSE’s Cyber Centre if they suspect they have been targeted.
As The Associated Press has reported, “Cozy Bear” was identified by U.S. security officials as one of the two Russian-linked groups responsible for the hack into the Democratic National Committee computer network that resulted in the leak of Hillary Clinton campaign emails ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
RESEARCHERS WARNED OF RISK
This comes after CSE and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) issued a warning in May that Canadian intellectual property related to COVID-19 research and testing was at an elevated risk for foreign-backed hacking or other malicious activity.
At the time the agencies said that during the pandemic they had already seen an increased risk of foreign interference and espionage related to the work being done by Canadian researchers, though they would not comment on specific operations, or which foreign actors posed a concern.
The federal government has committed more than $1 billion towards a national medical and research strategy to combat the novel coronavirus that is seeing labs across the country expand their capacity to study the virus, possible treatments or vaccines, and its spread among the population.
The funding includes millions of dollars for developing and producing vaccines and treatments in Canada, supporting similar work in other nations, as well as studying immunity and serology testing.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several other world leaders put out a call to global leaders to “commit to an equitable distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.”
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada on Nov. 23, 2020 – Kamloops This Week
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
There have been 17 deaths in British Columbia over three days due to COVID-19 and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says most of the victims were seniors in long-term or assisted care.
There have been 1,933 new cases since Friday, with 1,304 of them diagnosed in the Fraser Health region.
There are 60 active outbreaks in health-care facilities, including 54 long-term care or assisted-living sites and six hospitals or acute-care facilities.
Henry says it’s now the most challenging time of COVID-19 and everyone is feeling the strain.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating due to a possible exposure to COVID-19.
A spokesman for Moe’s office says the potential exposure happened on Nov. 15 in the Prince Albert area.
Jim Billington says the premier is not experiencing symptoms but was tested today out of an abundance of caution.
He says Moe is to work remotely from his home in Shellbrook until Sunday.
The province announced 235 new cases today and four new deaths.
Nova Scotia is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today.
The province says the new cases were identified on Sunday in the Central Zone, bringing its total active case count up to 51.
Eight of the infections are connected to previously reported cases, while three are still under investigation.
Officials say the recent rise in cases has led to stricter rules for metro Halifax Regional Municipality and parts of Hants County which go into effect today.
New Brunswick is reporting one new death and 15 new cases of COVID-19.
The new death brings the provincial fatality total to seven.
The province currently has 89 active cases of novel coronavirus and has registered 445 total cases and 349 recoveries.
Premier Blaine Higgs says there are no changes planned at this point around the Atlantic bubble despite the temporary withdrawal of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
COVID-19 cases in Yukon have jumped to 38, 14 more infections than just a week ago.
Territorial health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says two of the new cases involve children under nine years old and at least one of those infected is over 60.
Yukon increased restrictions last week as infection rates jumped in jurisdictions around it, requiring all but critical services workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they enter the territory.
Hanley says community transmission has not yet been ruled out in some of the latest cases.
Manitoba health officials are reporting a record-high 543 new COVID-19 cases.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says there are some positive signs, however.
He says the average number of contacts per case is dropping, which could slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Manitoba brought in strict measures last week that limit store openings and public gatherings.
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 and its first case confirmed in a school.
In a press conference today, officials announced one of the new cases is a student at the elementary school in Deer Lake, in western Newfoundland.
The student’s infection is connected to a cluster of cases in the area.
Officials say the other case is also in western Newfoundland, but is related to travel and is not connected to the ongoing cluster.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has announced his province will be temporarily withdrawing from the Atlantic bubble for a two-week period starting tomorrow.
He says it’s a necessary step because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the other three Atlantic provinces.
King says all non-essential travel to and from the Island will be suspended until December 7th, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.
The Island reported one new case of COVID 19 today.
Quebec is reporting 1,164 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say today that hospitalizations decreased by eight, to 634, and 98 patients were in intensive care, a drop of five.
The province says 1,282 more people recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 115,367 recoveries.
Quebec has reported 133,206 COVID-19 infections and 6,842 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Ontario is reporting 1,589 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 19 new deaths due to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 535 in Peel Region, 336 cases are in Toronto, and 205 cases in York Region.
The province says it has conducted 37,471 tests since the last daily report.
In total, 507 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 156 in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
B.C.’s top doctor says the province is facing its “most challenging” period of the pandemic to date as hospitalizations climb and transmission in long-term care increases.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that “we are all feeling the strain” as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on.
“This virus doesn’t pause, though, when we’re tired and frustrated and we want it to be over,” she said. “It spreads quickly and doesn’t wait for us to catch up.”
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 over three days, along with 17 additional deaths, bringing the province’s pandemic death toll to 348.
Monday’s update brought the number of active cases in the province to 7,360. Of those, 277 were in hospital and 59 were in critical care or ICU.
The chief public health officer said over the next two weeks, people in the province need to “urgently” work to reduce transmission in order to keep schools and workplaces open and relieve the “very real stress” on the health-care system.
Health officials in the province recently put out provincewide health orders, including a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 337,555, with 56,832 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,521.
Alberta‘s chief medical officer of health said Monday the province has hit a “precarious point” in the pandemic and must take action.
“Waiting any longer will impact our ability to care for Albertans in the weeks and months ahead,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday, as the province reported 1,549 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths.
In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after a potential COVID-19 exposure at a restaurant in Prince Albert. A spokesperson for the premier said Moe was not experiencing symptoms but was tested out of an abundance of caution. Saskatchewan reported 235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and four additional deaths.
Manitoba on Monday reported more than 540 new cases of COVID-19 — a record high in the Prairie province. The province also reported seven additional deaths.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said as of Nov. 1, the province had reported a total of 75 deaths due to COVID-19. As of Monday, that figure stood at 236.
“It might be easy just to think of these as numbers, but we all know these are Manitobans,” he said. “These are people who are loved, who are missed right now.”
Ontario also reported a record high daily case number on Monday with 1,589 cases. The province, which reported 19 additional deaths, also saw hospitalizations increase to 507, with 156 in ICU.
Quebec, another province hit hard by the pandemic, reported 1,164 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations stood at 634, with 98 in ICU, the province reported.
Premier Blaine Higgs said New Brunswick won’t be making any changes to its participation in the Atlantic bubble “for the time being.” The province reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 and one death on Monday.
Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. One of the cases was detected over the weekend as part of a rapid COVID-19 testing program for employees and patrons at a bar in downtown Halifax.
Across the North, there were four new cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut and six in Yukon. Yukon increased restrictions last week as infection rates jumped in jurisdictions around it, requiring all but critical services workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they enter the territory.
Nunavut is in the midst of a lockdown to try to beat back an increase in cases. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson cautioned on Monday that case numbers will “go up and down from day to day regardless of what’s happening in the community” because of the timing of testing and “variability of flights.”
There were no new COVID-19 cases reported in the Northwest Territories on Monday, leaving its total case number at 15.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, there were more than 59.2 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide with more than 37.9 million of them considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll was approaching 1.4 million.
In the Americas, new cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. have rocketed to all-time highs, averaging more than 170,000 per day, and deaths have soared to over 1,500 a day, the highest level since the spring. The virus is blamed for more than a quarter-million deaths in the U.S. and over 12 million confirmed infections.
“There is so much community transmission all over the United States that the chances of you encountering somebody that has COVID-19 is actually very, very high, whether it’s on an airplane, at the airport or at a rest area,” said Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist for New York City hospitals.
The largest county in the U.S. is on the brink of a stay-home order after a coronavirus surge surpassed a level set by Los Angeles County public health officials to trigger such an action. A swell of new cases Monday put the county over an average of 4,500 cases per day.
In Mexico, church and civic leaders cancelled an annual gathering that attracts massive crowds of Catholic pilgrims to protect people.
In Europe, state and federal health authorities in Germany say they are shortening quarantine periods for people who have come into contact with a confirmed COVID case from 14 days to 10, if they provide a negative test.
The European Medicines Agency could produce a scientific opinion on COVID-19 vaccines seeking regulatory approval by the end of the year in a best-case scenario.
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In the Asia-Pacific region, China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday that there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.
Malaysia said it would close some factories of the world’s biggest rubber glove maker as more than 2,000 of its workers had tested positive for COVID-19.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, will close bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues for the third time this year.
In Africa, Nigeria will bar passengers who fail to follow the country’s COVID-19 protocol from flying for six months.
In the Middle East, Iran reported a record high 13,721 new cases and a near-record 483 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years – CBC.ca
Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures.
Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to figures released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be “safe countries” for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first.
The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration.
The federal government is appealing a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found the STCA infringed Charter rights.
The figures provided to Kwan show there was a spike in the number of asylum seekers turned back at the border after Trump was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017.
In 2016 there were 742 people turned back at the border. That figure jumped to 1,992 in 2017. There were 744 denied entry in 2018 and 663 in 2019.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23 this year — a period which captures the height of the first wave of COVID-19 — 259 people were turned back at the border.
‘Even more precarious’
Kwan called that “really disturbing.”
“In the face of a pandemic, things are even more precarious for people who need to get to safety and Canada actually did not hesitate to turn people back,” she said.
Kwan said the Trump administration imposed detention and deportation policies that violated international human rights and provoked widespread fear among refugees. By turning away asylum seekers, Canada is “complicit” in the violation of their rights, she said.
Kwan said Canada should immediately suspend the STCA and work to negotiate a new agreement with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that addresses human rights issues. But she said the “aggressive and intense” detention policies could linger.
“I think even with the Biden administration, that policy may still continue to exist, and even if the Biden administration wants to make changes, it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.
Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said the government appealed the Federal Court ruling because it believes there were errors in key findings of fact and law.
She said the decision mistakenly suggests that all asylum claimants who are ineligible under the STCA and turned back to the U.S. are automatically detained as a penalty. She also noted that the U.S. remains a party to the UN Refugee Convention.
Refugee pact ‘fair, compassionate’: Blair spokesperson
“The STCA, which has served Canada well for 16 years, ensures that those whose lives are in danger are able to claim asylum at the very first opportunity in a safe country,” she said.
“We are in continuous discussions with the U.S. government on issues related to our shared border. We believe that the STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle for the fair, compassionate and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries.”
As for the spike in numbers in 2017, Power said that 2017-2018 recorded the highest number of globally displaced individuals since the Second World War.
Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said a number of factors could have driven that sharp increase, including global patterns and Trump’s policies.
He said Canada should be fulfilling its international obligations under international refugee law at all times — even during a pandemic, when safety concerns are heightened.
Mohammed pointed to exemptions made for students, family reunification and other immigration classes that allow people to arrive in Canada despite travel restrictions.
“Why are refugees being excluded from that? They’re able to quarantine or be required to have a quarantine plan just like anyone else … so why is there not the ability to be able to provide protection?” he said.
Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the 2020 figures represent only a partial picture of the people turned back to the U.S. because of added restrictions after the border closed March 20.
At that time, refugee claimants were denied entry on public health grounds whether they arrived at an official point of entry or at another crossing — such as Roxham Road in Quebec — where the STCA does not normally apply.
Despite assurances the Canadian government says it received from the U.S. that refugee claimants directed back would not be subject to enforcement such as detention or removal, Dench said refugee advocates in Canada know of at least two people who were detained in the U.S. after being directed back.
Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the Liberal record on administering the refugee and asylum system was one of “mismanagement, years-long backlogs and failure,” even before the pandemic.
“Conservatives have long been calling on the government to close illegal border crossings and work with their American counterparts to close the longstanding loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that refugee and asylum seekers have a fair, compassionate and effective pathway to come to Canada,” she said in a statement.
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