US Treasury warns financial institutions of ransomware infecting COVID-19 vaccine research

The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) warned financial institutions that ransomware programs aggressively compromising vaccine research organizations. “FinCEN is aware of ransomware directly targeting vaccine research, and FinCEN asks financial institutions to stay alert to ransomware targeting vaccine delivery operations as well as the supply chains required to manufacture the vaccines,” the US Treasury Department bureau warned.

The day when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued two emergency use COVID-19 vaccine authorizations, the warning was published. In November, a virtual exchange was also held by FinCEN with representatives from technology firms, financial institutions, and federal government agencies to talk about growing concerns on the subject of ransomware.

It also issued a ransomware recommendation in October on the use of financial systems to ease ransom payments after crypto-malware attacks. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) warned organizations at the same day aiding victims to pay ransom money that they are dealing with sanction risks as their actions could infringe regulations.

The financial intelligence unit also warned of cyber criminals using the public’s interest in the COVID-19 vaccines and their supply to their benefit.”COVID-19 vaccine fraud may include the sale of unapproved and illegally marketed vaccines, the sale of counterfeit versions of approved vaccines, and illegal diversion of legitimate vaccines,” FinCEN added.

“Already, fraudsters have offered, for a fee, to provide potential victims with the vaccine sooner than permitted under the applicable vaccine distribution plan. “Financial institutions and their customers should also be alert to phishing schemes luring victims with fraudulent information about COVID-19 vaccines.”

During the last two months, the US federal agencies issued the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), DHS-ICE, INTERPOL, and Europol, and then this one came after all those. According to the FTC, due to COVID-19-related scams this year, over 275,000 Americans have reported financial losses of more than $211 million.