Disinfo: Accusations about Russian-sponsored hacker attacks aim to discredit Russia’s anti-COVID vaccine


The accusations about Russian-sponsored hacker attacks against Western pharmaceutical companies aim to discredit Russia’s anti-COVID vaccine, which could become the first in the world. These accusations are an attempt to discredit the Russian vaccine by people who fear its success because Russia’s vaccine could potentially become the top vaccine in the market and the most effective one. These are typical accusations made without any evidence, and their timing should be noted. They were made just when it was announced that the Russian vaccine is scheduled to be approved in August by the regulatory authority.


Conspiracy theory. The article provides no evidence to support its claim that accusations about  Russian-sponsored cyber-espionage against organisations involved in COVID-19 research aim to discredit the Russian anti-COVID vaccine.

The article repeats a recurrent disinformation narrative denying any involvement of  the Russian government in hacker attacks and cyber-crime. This narrative rejects as baseless and absurd any accusations of Russian-sponsored hostile cyber-operations against Western targets, and often claims that such accusations are motivated by “Russophobiaor seek to distract the attention of Western public opinion from real problems.

The article’s claim does not reflect reality. On July 16, 2020, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - together with Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) – issued a report on the targeting of COVID-19 vaccine development by the APT29 cyber-espionage group (also known as ‘the Dukes’ or ‘Cozy Bear’).

The report assesses that APT29 is almost certainly part of the Russian intelligence services and that throughout 2020, APT29 has targeted various organisations involved in COVID-19 vaccine development in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, highly likely with the intention of stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines. This report is based on serious investigative work and reflects the genuine concern of the UK, US and Canadian governments about the cyber-espionage activities of Russian intelligence services. The report has nothing to do with alleged efforts to “discredit the Russian anti-COVID vaccine”.

Russian state actors have been proven to be actively involved in hostile cyber-operations, including malicious cyberattacks, hacking of foreign states and entities, as well as running disinformation campaigns. For further background see here and here.

Read a similar case claiming that the Dutch government’s accusations against Russia for the 2018 cyber-attacks on the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW) are groundless.


  • Reported in: Issue 206
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 16/07/2020
  • Language/target audience: Italian
  • Country: UK, Russia
  • Keywords: coronavirus, Conspiracy theory, vaccination, Cyber, Hybrid war, Intelligence services, Conspiracy


Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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