Successful Hack On EU Vaccine Agency

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it has been hit by a cyber attack and documents relating to a Covid-19 vaccine have been accessed. There have been several other known cyber attacks that have targeted COVID-19 research and now this attack is known to have successfully stolen data, from the first authorised coronavirus vaccine, outside Russia and China. 

BioNTech, which makes one of the vaccines in partnership with Pfizer, said its regulatory submission was accessed during the attack.

The EMA is currently working on approval of two Covid-19 vaccines, which it expects to conclude within weeks. “EMA has been the subject of a cyber-attack... The agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant entities. it said in statement.

In contrast, the vaccine maker BioNTech disclosed more about the incident. “Today, we were informed by the EMA 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,” it posted on its website. Furthermore, “Given the critical public health considerations and the importance of transparency, we continue to provide clarity around all aspects of the vaccine development and regulatory processes... 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.”

Recently IBM warned of a sophisticated nation state phishing campaign was against various organisations that provide the cold chain storage needed to distribute the Pfizer vaccine.  Sensitive information on vaccines developed in the West has been sought-after by nation state actors from China, Russia and North Korea for months. 

The attack on the EMA comes the day before the agency is due to update the European Parliament on the progress of the vaccine assessments. 

In October, an Indian pharma giant making Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine had to close down a number of facilities because of cyber-attacks. Warnings from the National Cyber Security Centre, Microsoft and US authorities have come thick and fast throughout the year.

European Medicines Agency:       BioNTech:        FiercePharma:        Infosecurity Magazine:       BBC:

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