A China-led hacker group is targeting two Indian vaccine makers, Internet security firm Cyfirma reports.

These would be Bharat Biotech, which developed the vaccine Covaxin, and the Serum Institute of India (SSI), which produces the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"The motive for the attacks is to divert intellectual property to gain a competitive advantage over Indian pharmaceutical companies," said Cyfirma director Kumar Ritesh.

According to the company, the Chinese hackers have knowledge of vulnerable servers of the SSI.

It is still unclear whether an attack actually took place and, if so, whether it was successful.

Ritesh says it is not yet clear what vaccine-related information the hackers could have accessed.

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SSI and Bharat Biotech declined to respond.

APT10 more often accused of espionage

The Chinese hacker group is referred to by the name APT10.

The letters stand for

advanced persistent threat

: a designation to indicate government-directed or funded hackers.

APT10 has been accused of economic espionage more often.

In December 2018, the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) warned that the hacker group is also targeting Dutch companies.

Other countries are also said to be guilty of theft around COVID-19 vaccines.

Russia and North Korea would also have been guilty of the practice at several companies from different countries.

India's largest producer of COVID-19 vaccines

Rivals China and India have sold or donated COVID-19 vaccines to multiple countries.

India produces more than 60 percent of all vaccines sold worldwide.

The SSI is expected to start large-scale manufacturing of doses of the US pharmaceutical company Novavax shortly.

The Covaxin vaccine is also being exported to multiple countries, including Brazil.