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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

Sen. Smith: We need to expand telehealth

Axios' health care editor Sam Baker (left) and Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) Photo: Axios

The expansion in telehealth services to address the coronavirus pandemic needs to continue, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Friday at a virtual Axios event.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has increased the need for access to care — as well as the risk of infection from traveling to a doctor's office for treatment. Telehealth has become a popular alternative for people seeking both mental and physical health care amid a shortage of providers across the country.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.

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