As COVID-19 vaccine research revs up, so do cyberattacks

The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the world’s biotech and pharmaceutical industries. News about potential vaccines has driven surges in company stock prices; optimism in vaccine development may be responsible for buoying the stock market in its entirety1. This has also resulted in some of the highest-profile nation-state cyberattacks in recent memory. Between May 2020 and August 2020, United States federal agencies accused both Russian and Chinese cyber espionage groups of attempting to steal COVID-19 vaccine information from developers.23 In a world facing a global pandemic, no industry is under greater scrutiny or plays a more critical role than the pharmaceutical sector.

Attacks on pharmaceutical companies are not new. As a key part of the global healthcare sector, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are targeted by the same sophisticated nation-state groups that seek to disrupt critical industry for geopolitical advantage. However, these companies also deal in some of the world’s most critical and priceless intellectual property (IP), and as a result operate at risk from opportunistic and highly capable cybercriminals who seek to steal and exploit their data.

Key findings from the report include:

The number one emerging threat in 2020 is nation-state espionage aimed at stealing COVID-19 vaccine research data. That said, the top threat overall is still ransomware.

In this report, BlueVoyant examines the biotech and pharmaceutical industries during the most critical time in their existence. Analysis reveals an industry under aggressive and targeted attack; unfortunately, it also reveals an industry often lacking critical protections needed to defend against the threats it faces.


Access the full report here

Abel Archundia




Abel joined ISTARI in October 2020 as Managing Director, Life Sciences and Industrials. ISTARI is a Temasek platform company focused on helping the best companies in the world manage down digital risk.

At Bayer, Abel was head of IT and Digital Transformation for Bayer Pharma Division since 2017, and member of Bayer Group IT Board. Before joining Bayer, Abel was Global CIO, Sandoz, a Novartis Division (2012-17) as well as head of IT for Novartis Technical Operations (~85 plants) looking after manufacturing, supply chain and quality. He was a member of the Novartis IT Board.

Past positions include Cemex (CIO EMEA), Dell (General Manager, Mexico) and Boston Consulting Group (Principal, Monterrey and Dallas offices). He holds a degree in electronics engineering from Tec de Monterrey, Mexico, and an MBA and Public Management degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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Getting Cybersecurity Right for Manufacturing Keeping clinical trial data safe: Handling cybersecurity in a risky world As COVID-19 vaccine research revs up, so do cyberattacks