U.S. officials as recently as Thursday have accused China of similar conduct.
But the latest warning was startling for the detail it provided, attributing the targeting by name to a particular hacking group and specifying the software vulnerabilities the hackers have been exploiting.
Also, Russian cyberattacks strike a particular nerve in the U.S. given the Kremlin's sophisticated campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.
And the coordination of the new warning across continents seemed designed to add heft and gravity to the announcement and to prompt the Western targets of the hackers to protect themselves.
“I think (the governments) have very specific intelligence that they can provide,” said John Hultquist, senior director of analysis at Mandiant Threat Intelligence.
“The report is full of specific operational information that defenders can use” to protect their networks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the accusations, saying, “We don’t have information about who may have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centers in Britain."
“We may say one thing: Russia has nothing to do with those attempts,” Peskov said, according to the state news agency Tass.
The accusations come at a tenuous time for relations between Russia and both the U.S. and U.K.
Besides political ill will, especially among Democrats, about the 2016 election interference, the Trump administration is under pressure to confront Russia over intelligence information that Moscow offered bounties to Taliban fighters to attack allied fighters.
The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said “it’s clear that Russia’s malign cyber operations and other destabilizing activities — from financial and other material support to non-state actors in Afghanistan to poisoning dissidents in democratic countries — have persisted, even when exposed.”
He urged President Donald Trump to condemn such activities.
The vaccine assessment came two years to the day after Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and appeared to side with Moscow over U.S. intelligence agencies about the election interference.
The U.K. did not say whether Putin knew about the more recent research hacking, but British officials believe such intelligence would be highly prized.