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Going After Vaccine Work

Western intelligence agencies say a Russian hacker group has been trying to gain access to coronavirus vaccine research, NPR reports. It adds that the group, known as Cozy Bear or APT29, has been linked to Russian intelligence.

In an advisory, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre says it and US and Canadian intelligence officials are more than 95 percent certain APT29 is part of Russian intelligence and that it is highly likely that its attacks are focused on collecting research into COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. "It's just completely unacceptable when we have organizations that are working so incredibly hard in our COVID response in trying to find a vaccine that agents linked to the Russian state should have taken this action to try and steal intellectual property," UK security minister James Brokenshire said during a radio interview, according to the Guardian.

The intelligence agencies say the hacking group uses a number of techniques including custom malware, the Verge reports. In the advisory, the agencies urge potential targets to install security updates, use two-factor authorizations, and report suspected phishing emails. 

Russia, NPR adds, has denied the allegations.

The Scan

Omicron's Emergence

The World Health Organization has called Omicron a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," the Los Angeles Times writes.

Not as Much

Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients by less than previously reported, the New York Times says.

Bats That Hang Together

Discover magazine writes that researchers have found a social microbiome among vampire bats.

PLOS Papers on CEWAS, Simian Varicella Virus Transcriptome, Dermatomyositis Markers

In PLOS this week: multi-omic approach to home in on genetic risk variants, transcriptomic analysis of the simian varicella virus, and more.