This week appears to be a very unlucky one in terms of cybersecurity. Just yesterday, we reported that one of the biggest cybersecurity US companies has been a victim of a cyber attack. Today, we receive more unsettling news from The European Medicines Agency (EMA).
BioNTech And Pfizer Documents Subject Of The Attack
EMA has been hit by a cyberattack and the documents in question are the regulatory submission of nonother but the Covid-19 vaccine, developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. The vaccine is currently being distributed to thousands of UK patients and is about to be received by citizens from many other European countries in the following weeks.
No details on the nature of the cyber attack have been released by EMA as of yet. They have released a short statement in which they informed the public about an ongoing investigation.
BioNTech Says Vaccinations Will Not Be Delayed
BioNtech has spoken out saying that they do not expect any delays in the vaccination timeline due to the cyberattack. In a brief statement they released, they say,
“Today, we were informed that the agency has been subject to a cyber-attack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed,”
BioNtech’s statement pointed out that they do not believe any of the personal data of the trial participants have been accessed. Furtherly, they claimed that they currently,
“Await further information about the EMA’s investigation and will respond appropriately and in accordance with EU law.”
The Danger Of Cyberattack On EMA
EMA is not only in charge of approving and regulating the use of Pfizer and Biontech’s vaccine but any other vaccines that have successfully passed the Phase 3 trial and have applied for emergency approval. Thus, the scope of a cyber attack may be more severe. As of now, we do not know if the hackers have also gained access to the documents regarding Moderna’s vaccine.
The Latest In A Series Of Attacks
Unfortunately, the attack is not surprising. It is the latest in the series of attacks that the regulatory bodies involved in approving the Covid-19 vaccine have experienced during the last months. Already during the summer, security services were warning the public about the increased threat from the Russian intelligence that was mostly targeting companies involved with developing a successful vaccine.
As BBC reports, the attack came a day before the EMA was due to update the European Parliament on the vaccine assessments progress.
We do not know when exactly the attack happened, who stands behind it, and what crucial information has been accessed. However, it is not hard to imagine that any specific documents relating to the vaccine would be extremely valuable to countries that are also working on the vaccine.
What Information Could Have Been Accessed?
In an interview with Reuters, Marc Rogers, founder of a volunteer group fighting the Covid19-related breaches 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,”
BioNtech and Pfizer declined further comment. As for the U.S law enforcement and cybersecurity, they did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. The pharma and biotech companies are now focusing on maintaining close cooperation with the agencies leading the investigation and making sure that the distribution of the vaccine goes as smoothly as possible. As the BioNtech spokesperson said,
“Our focus remains steadfast on working in close partnership with governments and regulators to bring our COVID-19 vaccine to people around the globe as safely and as efficiently as possible to help bring an end to this devastating pandemic.”