LONDON - Hackers sponsored by Russia are targeting the United Kingdom (UK), the United States and Canadian organisations involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The latter told the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson it had the "highest level of confidence" the Kremlin was behind the "ongoing" attack, which was also verified by the US and Canada.

Both Oxford University and Imperial College London, the two British teams trying to develop a vaccine, are understood to have been targeted.

The Financial Times says Russian hackers have been “looting vaccine research” while The Daily Mail says Boris Johnson is “at war with his experts” as the PM and his advisers offer conflicting advice on Covid-19. Johnson’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty says he is “uneasy” with Downing Street’s push for the public to return to work.

Experts say drug companies and research groups are being targeted by a group known as APT29, which is “almost certainly” part of the Kremlin’s intelligence services.

The Centre did not state whether the hackers had acquired any medical secrets.

The latest saga comes as Russia is separately accused of having tried to influence the General Election in December last year, by amplifying the leaked US trade deal documents touted by the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the campaign.

"Extensive analysis" has led the Government to conclude that "it is almost certain" Russians tried to meddle in the 2019 vote, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said in a written ministerial statement.

Documents relating to the UK-US Free Trade Agreement were "illicitly acquired" before the election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit, the Foreign Secretary said.