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The Top 5 Pharma Cybersecurity Breaches to Know and Learn From

The pharmaceutical industry has unique cybersecurity challenges, including human error, Cloud migration, mergers and acquisitions, and ransomware attacks. In addition, the consequences of a breach can cost a deal, and the company could face legal liabilities. Here are five examples of Pharma cybersecurity breaches. Each one highlights a different type of threat and should be investigated and learned from. Implement strong cybersecurity controls for pharma cyber attacks: five breaches that the industry must learn from.

Ransomware attacks

Recently, the pharma industry faced a cyber-espionage attack by a group called Energetic Bear. Cyber experts speculated that the attackers were motivated by the desire to steal intellectual property. These assets could range from proprietary recipes and production batch sequence steps to network information, manufacturing plant volumes, and capabilities. As a result, this type of attack can have a high financial and reputational impact. As a result, companies must continuously monitor their vendors’ cybersecurity to prevent breaches regardless of how it’s performed.

A recent study by Deloitte revealed that pharmaceutical companies had become the number one target for cybercriminals. They are increasingly digitalizing their data, which enables criminals to access it. These stolen data can then be sold on the dark web or ransomed back to desperate pharmaceutical companies. As a result, pharma has played a pivotal role in the COVID-19 response.

Human error

While there are several reasons to strengthen cybersecurity, the pharmaceutical industry is especially vulnerable to human error and cyberattacks. The industry undergoes a rapid digital transformation that increases the risk of data theft. In addition, stolen data may be sold on the dark web, used to commit identity theft, or ransomed back to the company. This strategy can prevent the loss of critical data while allowing the company to continue operations.

Another reason pharmaceutical firms are prime targets for cybercriminals is the sensitive personal data they collect from patients. In addition, many pharmaceutical companies rely on third-party vendors to help manage their IT systems, and a breach could cause significant reputational and financial damage. Therefore, complete visibility of your network is essential for protecting confidential patient data and other confidential information. Moreover, you should monitor the cybersecurity of third-party vendors regularly.

Cloud migrations

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to cloud computing and created new cybersecurity concerns. Abi Millar looks at five recent pharma cybersecurity breaches of the last decade. Cloud services are not secure, and the lack of configuration governance can result in unprotected environments. It’s not just security but human behavior.

The availability of cloud technology creates opportunities for hackers who seek out vulnerabilities and exploit them. This is particularly true during cloud migrations when existing systems are relocated to the new environment. IT teams must make adjustments to those systems so that they can be secure in the cloud. Many questions arise during the first cloud migration.

Mergers and acquisitions

With the proliferation of online payments and cloud-based services, pharma companies have faced numerous challenges related to cybersecurity. From the potential of financial loss to production disruption, security breaches can profoundly impact pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines. Not to mention the damage to their reputation. In addition to fines and loss of revenue, cybersecurity breaches can result in billions of dollars in liabilities. 

Cybersecurity is one of the most critical aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, and companies must protect their proprietary information and legacy technology. While they may have a strong cybersecurity posture now, there is no guarantee that the acquisition target will have one in the future. Therefore, it’s essential to consider cybersecurity best practices before completing a merger or acquisition. If data are compromised, the merger or acquisition could fall apart even before it’s finalized. Another major challenge is that cybersecurity strategies aren’t always aligned across companies, which increases the exposure of the combined organizations to cyber attacks.

Covid-19 pandemic

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare companies are increasingly leveraging digital platforms to improve their security. In a recent case, a North Korean cybercriminal used a spear-phishing campaign to target AstraZeneca. The hackers posed as recruiters on LinkedIn and WhatsApp, approaching staff with fake job offers to access their computers. During this period, North Korean actors also tried to steal confidential information from Johnson & Johnson, Novovax, and three South Korean pharmaceutical companies.

The COVID-19 cyberattacks caused a global lockdown in 2020 that triggered massive reliance on cyberspace and online alternatives. This heightened social distancing, however, ignited several Cybersecurity challenges. Malicious hackers exploited the panic and fear generated by the pandemic to gain access to personal information. Internet fraudsters also used fake websites to steal sensitive information, and the malware in these apps was incredibly sophisticated.