Breach, Data Security

Pfizer-BioNTech data stolen in cyberattack on European Medicines Agency

The European Medicines Agency reported Wednesday that it was the focus of a cyberattack involving some of the data around the first COVID-19 vaccine that’s being distributed in Europe.

In a brief statement yesterday, the EMA – which assesses medicines and vaccines for the European Union – only said it was the subject of a cyberattack and had swiftly launched a full investigation.

A more extensive announcement from U.S. drug company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, said the cyberattack centered around some documents relating to the regulatory submission to the EMA for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from the two companies. The corporate release said the information was stored on an EMA server and had been unlawfully accessed.

The new vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech – BNT162b2 – has become a top contender to vaccinate the public for COVID-19. The vaccine is already being administered in the United Kingdom.

A Reuters report said that the EMA indicated it would complete its review of BNT162b2  by Dec. 29, although its schedule could change.

This was not the first attempt to breach COVID-19 vaccine research. Just last week, IBM released that hackers had targeted the cold storage supply chain for COVID-19 distribution. And in October, Indian pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy Laboratories reported a cyberattack about a week after the company was granted permission to begin its final stage trials for a Russian COVID-19 vaccine.

Thus far, attacks have already been attributed to China, Russia and North Korea against many major firms, including Johnson & Johnson.

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