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Photo: Valera Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Microsoft said Friday it has detected at least seven attacks on companies working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine or treatments.

Details: The company said attacks by three nation-state actors — two from North Korea and one from Russia — have targeted companies in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States.

What they're saying: "Two global issues will help shape people’s memories of this time in history — COVID-19 and the increased use of the internet by malign actors to disrupt society," Microsoft deputy general counsel Tom Burt said in a blog post.

  • "It’s disturbing that these challenges have now merged as cyberattacks are being used to disrupt health care organizations fighting the pandemic."

Between the lines: Attackers have used a range of approaches including phishing schemes and brute force to get needed passwords, with one group tied to North Korea posing as the World Health Organization in its spear-phishing effort.

  • Microsoft said its built-in security protections stopped a majority of the attacks.
  • "We’ve notified all organizations targeted, and where attacks have been successful, we’ve offered help," Burt said.

The big picture: The attacks come amid growing threats to health care providers and nongovernmental agencies, including ransomware attacks against hospitals.

  • Microsoft noted that it made its AccountGuard notification service available starting in April to human rights and health care organizations working on coronavirus-related efforts, signing up 195 such groups.

Go deeper

European and North American authorities disrupt massive ransomware network

European Union's law enforcement agency's headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

European and North American police on Wednesday took control of the infrastructure behind a massive network used by criminals to conduct cybercrime, the AP reports.

Why it matters: By claiming the infrastructure, authorities dealt a major blow to cyber criminals who use Emotet — one of the world's largest networks of hijacked computers — to install ransomware as part of extortion schemes and financial theft heists.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.

Biden: There won't be "American forces moving into Ukraine"

President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he does not foresee U.S. troops moving into Ukraine.

Why it matters: Biden's comments come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears increasingly likely.

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