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Gilead hit with Iranian cyberattack for role in COVID-19 response: report

May 8, 2020 Kyle Blankenship

Gilead Sciences has captured worldwide attention since its antiviral drug remdesivir was approved late last week as the first therapy to treat COVID-19. Now, as bad actors target companies at the head of the spear in the novel coronavirus response, Gilead might have found itself in their sights.

Gilead was recently hit with an Iranian “password spraying” attack that used fake email login pages in an attempt to access passwords of high-ranking executives, Reuters reported

In April, an Iranian hacker group known as “Charming Kitten” sent an email, purportedly from a journalist, to a Gilead legal and corporate affairs executive as part of a scheme to compromise the drugmaker’s company email accounts, three cybersecurity experts told Reuters. 

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Iran’s mission to the United Nations denied the country’s involvement in the scheme. Reuters wasn’t able to confirm whether the attack was successful. 

Earlier this week, the U.K. and U.S. governments warned that “malicious cyber campaigns” were targeting healthcare policymakers and researchers to gain access to corporate emails using “password spraying,” or using common passwords to access a number of accounts. 

RELATED: Early missteps, transparency questions dog U.S. government’s remdesivir rollout: reports

Gilead has been the focus of intense international scrutiny since its remdesivir won emergency clearance from the FDA last week. The drug is the only new therapy so far authorized to treat COVID-19.

The company has said it would donate its entire existing supply, or about 1.5 million doses, to the U.S. government for distribution. The Trump administration has shipped about 32,000 doses to Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia, Axios reports.

RELATED: Gilead, working on its own remdesivir ramp-up, scouts licensing partners for global production

With the emergency approval, Gilead has worked to increase its own supply of the medicine and is in licensing talks with some of the “world’s leading chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies” about their ability to produce remdesivir for countries in Europe, Asia and beyond until at least 2022.

The company is discussing licensing the med to generics makers in India and Pakistan to supply patients in developing countries. It’s also considering licensing the drug to the Medicines Patent Pool and exploring using UNICEF’s expertise for distribution in low- and middle-income countries. 

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