The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that its organization had been the target of a cybersecurity attack. Following this, German biotech firm BioNTech and the United States drugmaker Pfizer announced Wednesday, December 8, 2020, that it had its COVID-10-related documents accessed.
The hacking incident comes as the race towards finding a cure for the virus pandemic intensifies. Bloomberg shares that hackers from various governments, including the likes of China and Russia, have been accused of breaking into various healthcare and medical organizations in search of vaccine data.
Other countries that have hackers linked to other threat actors and governments include Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and Vietnam, reveals Reuters.
While the European medicines regulator disclosed the incident, news sites state the agency has declined to give further details about the breach.
Among the data obtained by hackers from the European medicines regulator are documents that relate to the regulatory submission required for the vaccine’s review which is slated to be concluded in a number of weeks.
According to Reuters, details of the cyberattack remain unclear. There is still no information surrounding the person or hacking group responsible for the attack and what other information has been obtained by the hackers in question.
Bloomberg reports that the individual systems and networks of the companies in question remain free from security breaches. In the same way, the drugmakers maintain that they are unaware of any information of participants who took part in the study to being accessed or compromised.
Among the compromised information, however, are those that may be seen as valuable to other nations and drug companies keen on finding a cure for the virus pandemic, states Reuters.
In an interview with Reuters, Marc Rogers, part of CTI-League, a group fighting against breaches related to the virus pandemic, states that the data submitted to regulatory agencies such as the EMA provides “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.”
“It also provides detailed information on other parties involved in the supply and distribution of the vaccine and potentially significantly increases the attack surface for the vaccine,” continued Rogers. This becomes a goldmine for hackers, especially with the potential to sell private findings to a larger market.
In a statement on its website, the European Medicines Agency took to posting a short notification. It said that following the attack, it has leveraged the help of law enforcement agencies to conduct a full investigation on the matter.