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Warning to Protect Research

The US has issued a warning to research firms working on a coronavirus vaccine that hackers may be targeting them, NPR reports.

A joint advisory from the UK's National Cyber Security Center and the US Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warns that certain groups are targeting medical research organizations, healthcare organizations, academic groups, and others that are working on national and international responses to COVID-19. " [Advanced Persistent Threat] groups frequently target such organizations in order to steal sensitive research data and intellectual property (IP) for commercial and state benefit," the advisory notes.

NPR notes that while the advisory didn't call out any specific group, it says that Iranian hackers are suspected of targeting Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, though Iran denies the claim. Additionally, it adds that US officials have been concerned for the past few years about efforts by China to obtain intellectual property, including medical research, from the US. 

The New York Times adds that even allies seem to be trying to gather information on each other. "This is a global pandemic, but unfortunately countries are not treating it as a global problem," Justin Fier from the cybersecurity firm Darktrace tells the Times. "Everyone is conducting widespread intelligence gathering — on pharmaceutical research, PPE orders, response — to see who is making progress."

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.