North Korea has started human trials on a COVID-19 vaccine — using info stolen from western drugmakers by a dedicated team of hackers, according to a report.
The Hermit Kingdom is already at phrase 3 in trials for its shot, produced even as the secretive nation refuses to admit to any confirmed cases, an informant told Daily NK.
The insider confirmed to the outlet that it was based on the work of a specialist “hacking organization” devoted to stealing vaccine info, raising the alarm in the US, UK and South Korea starting last year.
The hacking unit — called Bureau 325 — operates under the Reconnaissance General Bureau while receiving direct orders from the Central Committee, the source in North Korea said.
It reports directly to Kim Yo Jong, the feared sister of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, who also helps manage the group’s activities, the report said.
“Because of the nature of cyber attacks, it’s hard to exactly confirm what kind of data North Korea stole,” cybersecurity expert Mun Chong Hyun told Daily NK.
But at least some of the stolen knowledge appeared to be at the heart of the new vaccine, which is being developed by the Biological Industry Research Center of Kim Il Sung University, the source told Daily NK.
No matter how much wisdom they stole, it still may not be enough for a successful COVID-19 shot, however.
“They secured enough know-how through hacking, but they don’t have the capacity to produce [vaccines],” the outlet’s source said.
“But because the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] directly ordered a vaccine to be independently developed, they have to show something in the way of results,” the source added.