North Korea testing Covid vaccine using data ‘hacked from foreign scientists’

North Korea is developing Covid vaccines using data it hacked from foreign scientists, reports say.

Dictator Kim Jong-un's fearsome sister is said to be leading a specialist hacking unit called Bureau 325.

An insider claimed Kim Yo-jong's team's ill-gotten data has been used to create jabs at Kim Il Sung University.

South Korean newspaper Daily NK was told the rogue state's vaccine was already undergoing Phase III human trials.

North Korea borders China but claims it hasn't recorded a single case of coronavirus, the Mail Online reports.

But it has long been suspected of trying to steal vaccine secrets and the source said researchers have been using expertise gathered through "hacking activities" to carry out work at a biological research institute.

The work was said to include tests on patients with symptoms similar to those caused by Covid-19, with Phase I and Phase II trials already completed.

Microsoft linked North Korea last November to a series of attempted cyber-attacks by a shadowy operation called the Lazarus Group.

The group is under US sanctions as a suspected state-backed hacking unit, allegedly posed as job recruiters in an attempt to steal login credentials.

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Most of the targets in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States were "directly involved" in researching vaccines and treatments, the software giant said.

Microsoft also pointed the finger at a Russian state-backed hacking group, while the US says that China has also tried to target vaccine manufacturers.

South Korea's intelligence agency has also said it foiled hacking attempts from the North which were aimed at companies developing vaccines.

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Its spy agency warns it is possible that the virus is circulating in the North because of its links to China where the pandemic began.

The World Health Organisation says that public transport and inter-state movement have been rigidly restricted in North Korea while gatherings of more than five have been banned.

The measures are causing economic devastation in the country, which is already under severe strain from US sanctions over its nuclear programme.

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North Korea's GDP may have shrunk by 8.5 per cent last year, according to analytics firm Fitch Solutions.

Chinese customs data showed trade with North Korea plunging by more than 80 per cent in 2020.

Kim Jong-un has announced a new five-year plan to revitalise the economy at a party congress earlier this month where his regime displayed what appeared to be a new missile.

North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or fired its longest-range ballistic missiles since 2017, but talks with the US stalled under Donald Trump's presidency.

Kim has signalled he no longer feels bound by a self-imposed moratorium on missile tests.

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