COVID-19, Cybersecurity and an Underlying Enigma

“The joint statement did not name any of the attacked organizations, but two people familiar with the matter said one of the targets was Gilead, whose antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment so far proven to help patients infected with COVID-19.

The hacking infrastructure used in the attempt to compromise the Gilead executive’s email account has previously been used in cyberattacks by a group of suspected Iranian hackers known as “Charming Kitten,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, who reviewed the web archives identified by Reuters.”

Source: Exclusive: Iran-linked hackers recently targeted coronavirus drugmaker Gilead – sources

Interesting, because the extent to which COVID-19 scams and hacking campaigns are oriented in diverse ways around the virus must inevitably provide a treasure-trove of information security (i.e. cyber) intelligence.  Where the kinds of targets and methods or social engineering narratives fall into a bundle of expected targets and themes, they generate a wealth of information about the people, organisations or nation states that are seeking this information or access and, inevitably also, the aggregate evidence of tactical and technical artefacts they leave in their wake.

Value is attributed to research and IP in more or less direct proportion to the extent that it is obscured, aspirationally-owned, and commercially-exploitable – the COVID-19 context being an extreme case-in-point.  Attempts to hack pharmaceutical companies in this pandemic context are (yet) another reminder that it is the socioeconomic system(s) of value attribution and ownership themselves which inadvertently cultivate the persistent security threats that those systems must now relentlessly endure.  Information security’s core problem is not, in fact and under this particular perspective, an  endless game of sociotechnical one-upmanship – it is the cultivation of differentiated commercial (or geopolitical and security-related) value itself.

The core problem and symmetry here is the commercial value attributed to artefacts and systems creates the gravitational “pull” that motivates the information security threats that then cause those threatened artefacts and systems to seek to further obfuscate and protect their property; this generates further commercial, political or technical interest and “pull” towards those artefacts and systems.  It is an autonomously self-propagating problem; a Gordian Knot and dynamic symmetry that is proiminent here in the COVID-19 context but which is far broader and far further distributed than this specific instance. 

Where insecurity itself provides extensive commercial value and opportunity, we find ourselves in what may be an irremediable free-fall and orbit around a socioeconomic and technological Object of insecurity.

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