What happened?

European Medicines Agency (EMA, european medicines regulator) announced that they had been “the subject of a cyberattack.” Their brief note also said,”The agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close co-operation with the law enforcement and other relevant entities.”Pfizer and BioNTech (german partner of Pfizer) has also confirmed that their data had been “unlawfully accessed”.

What else do we know?

The companies said that their documents related to the development of COVID-19 vaccine had been “unlawfully accessed” on EMA’s servers in a cyberattack. Pfizer and BioNTech say they did not believe any personal data of the trial participants of vaccine had been compromised. The companies also said EMA “has assured us that the cyber attack will have no impact on the timeline for its review.”

EMA has not yet given any further details about the when they were hit by the cyber attack, who could be responsible, what other information may have been compromised and has appealed to wait till the investigation undergoing completes its course. EMA, though, informed the companies pfizer and BioNTech that some documents related to COVID-19 vaccine candidate had been viewed.

What did the officials have to say?

Marc Rogers, Founder of CTI-league, said “When it comes to the data submitted to these kinds of regulatory bodies, we are talking confidential information about the vaccine and its mechanism of action, its efficiency, its risks & known possible side effects and any unique aspects such as handling guidelines.”

Pfizer and BioNTech said to reuters,”no BioNTech or Pfizer systems has been breached in connection with this incident and we are unaware that any study participants have been identified through the data being accessed.” The EMA has told that it would complete its review by dec 29.

Has such incidents occured in the past? can they be linked together?

There has been many attempts in this year where multiple companies related to development of COVID-19 vaccine faced cyber attack. There was also an incident where spies from China were caught and punished by the US DOJ. Below are the articles related to such cyber attacks this year:

Central Health faced a cybersecurity attack.

What happened? Official working with Central Health, said that they are investigating a recent cyber attack. Investigation of one of its computer servers is underway, officials said. What is Central health? Central health is a local healthcare district created in 2004 by the voters of travis county which connects with several low income residents in…

Spy’s convicted: Two Chinese hackers charged by USA DoJ.

What Happened?US Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with serious charges which include allegedly hacking and stealing secrets from hundreds of organizations and individuals in America and other places on behalf of Beijing. They had been doing it for more than a decade. What Disclosures did the US DoJ made?What their main motive was…

NCSC: Cozy Bear group targets COVID-19 vaccine development

National Cyber Security Centre [NCSC] has recently released a report and revealed how a hackers group named Cozy Bear (aka APT 29) has been busy in running cyber espionage campaigns targeting organizations of Canada, US and UK who has been busy in development of vaccine for corona. Along with the 14 page report released by…

As many pharma companies were in the race to develop vaccines for COVID-19 from the start of the year, so did the hackers who were targeting companies like Moderna, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer,BioNTech and many others in the countries like US, Canada, UK etc. so yes, these attacks can be linked together. On basis of allegations made by the victim countries, estimates were made that these cyber attackers were from North Korea, South Korea, Iran, China and Russia. Not only companies, even reputed organizations like the world health organization have also come under cyber attacks.

What should you do to prevent yourself/company from such attacks?

Data breaches, Data leaks, DDoS, Ransomware attacks, Defacing of websites etc can be quiet damaging to not only the finances of a organisation/individual but also affects their reputation and other aspects in the industry. There aren’t any proactive counter measures which can help you during such attacks though. Hence, it is always better to prepare, as Prevention is better than cure.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your preventive measures against such scenarios:

  • Educate and train yourself & your employees against such attacks. Training against the known attack procedures can help you in long way.
  • Do not open any email whose source can’t be trusted. report the same to your admins for further investigation.
  • It is better to backup all the data that is being stored in your devices or servers. it is always better to have offline backups which can come in handy during such scenarios.
  • Rely on a good and trusted Security tools and solutions. No compromise can be done here as they are guarding your business.
  • Keep your private and work devices separate. If not possible, at least use different user environment on devices.
  • Use trusted VPN provider for your/organization devices and network. Don’t fall into the free VPN trap. They usually don’t work and store your information.
  • Always keep your devices up to date. You should install all the latest patch, drivers that are released only by the hardware manufacturer of your devices.
  • Try not to access websites whose identity cannot be verified. Most of these websites can be identified by their shady website UI and offering of Paid software’s in free.
  • Always listen to your IT Security consultant and plan your steps accordingly. You might know your business well, but your IT security consultant knows your systems and network better.
  • Do not pay ransom to the ransomware operators ever. This would never ensure whether you would get your data back or the operators would not public or delete your data.

By Siddhant Pathak

Cyber security architect, 7+ years experience in cyber security industry, Tech savy, Nature lover, Bullet 350 rider

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