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Microsoft (MSFT) Detects Cyberattacks on COVID-19 Studies

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Microsoft Corporation (MSFT - Free Report) recently announced in a blog post that seven pharmaceutical companies engaged in research of treatment/vaccine for COVID-19 have been the target of cyberattacks by hackers, allegedly from Russia and North Korea.

Microsoft stated that the cyberattacks were carried out by three groups which it has labeled — Strontium, Zinc and Cerium. The company further added that Zinc and Cerium originate from North Korea while Strontium belongs to Russia.

These hackers deployed brute force login efforts and password spray to gain access to sensitive data. Moreover, Zinc used fake recruiting messages to steal credentials while Cerium, posing as representatives of World Health Organization, utilized spear-phishing emails for credential theft, added Microsoft.


Though most of the cyberattacks were thwarted, some attacks have succeeded, as stated by Microsoft. These pharmaceutical companies were located in India, Canada, France, South Korea and the United States.
Microsoft did not name the seven companies, but extended assistance to the same firms.

In April 2020, Microsoft made AccountGuard available for health care facilities engaged in finding cure for coronavirus along with human rights organizations across the globe to protect them from cyber threats.

The AccountGuard service enables customers, especially from political circuit, to defend themselves against security threats. Microsoft does not charge any extra cost for the service.

Nearly 195 health care and human rights organisations have deployed Microsoft’s AccountGuard since being extended.

Microsoft continues to urge governments to undertake measures to protect people and critical infrastructure like health care facilities from cyberattacks.

Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Initiatives

Microsoft is working on enhancing its cybersecurity offerings for its clients. Microsoft’s investment in security and data protection is around $1 billion on an annual basis. The company’s Cyber Defense Operations Center monitors data points (measured in trillions) across network communications and devices to manage threats in real time.

The tech giant is infusing latest technologies like Machine Learning (ML), and behavioural analysis to enhance cybersecurity offerings. Providing clients with improved security offerings powered by innovative technologies is expected to result in higher adoption of the company’s security solutions.

Escalating risk of sophisticated cyber-attacks is boosting demand for strong security solutions.

Per Research And Markets report the worldwide cloud security market is expected to grow to $68.5 billion globally at an estimated CAGR of 14.7% between 2020 and 2025.

The attacks have multiplied in the wake of coronavirus crisis as hackers take advantage of sudden shift to remote work trend. Also, increasing number of online transactions, as movement of people has been restricted due to social distancing measures, is exploited by hackers to steal sensitive data.

Not just Microsoft, but most tech companies like Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) and Alphabet are developing advanced security solutions to counter the rise in sophisticated cyberattacks.

Recently, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD - Free Report) and International Business Machines Corporation (IBM - Free Report) teamed up to develop enhanced AI and cybersecurity solutions by creating open-source software along with open system architectures. This will enable deployment of confidential computing across hybrid cloud environment and assuage the security-related concerns of organisations.

At present, Microsoft carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

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