The pharmaceutical industry has access to some of the most crucial data. As the industry continues to embrace digital transformation, their highly valuable and sensitive information is becoming more enticing to cybercriminals. Currently, cybercriminals are more capable and better resourced of achieving their nefarious goals than before.
In July 2020, cybersecurity authorities and agencies in Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom released a joint warning on the attacks that target COVID-19 research or vaccine development units. So, pharmaceutical companies should address serious vulnerabilities, like a compromise of privileged access and identities that result from working in constantly scaling multi-cloud and hybrid environments called cloud permissions gap. This is an attack surface, which keeps growing, leaving more companies vulnerable to attacks, resulting in devastating consequences.
Why Cybercriminals Target Pharmaceutical Companies?
Like other industries, pharmaceutical companies are undergoing radical digital transformation. With time, more data is being managed and collected online, leading the organizations to become prime targets for cyber-attacks.
The data acquired from pharmaceutical companies is very valuable. Hackers can sell the patient information they collect on the dark web. The details include financial details, address, patient history, and social security numbers. All these can be used to commit identity theft. At times, unsold data is ransomed back to companies it has been stolen from.
Cyber Threats that Plague the Pharmaceutical Industry
The pharmaceutical industry is being forced to tackle new obstacles and challenges that were disregarded earlier by the sector as irrelevant to the industry. Pharmaceutical data breaches are increasing by the day. To defeat the cybersecurity attacks successfully, it is crucial to understand some of the top threats they have to face. Here are a few cybersecurity threats that affect pharmaceutical organizations.
1. Third-Party Vendors
Many pharmaceutical companies depend on third-party vendor services for carrying out the day-to-day operations and improving efficiencies, such as insurance providers, treatment centers, and manufacturers. In case a third-party vendor within the ecosystem experiences a data breach, the organization would be operationally
affected and is more likely to take on some financial and reputational damage. This is the reason it is necessary to have complete visibility across the network. It will allow you to continuously monitor the cybersecurity of third-party vendors.
2. Phishing Attacks
The frequency of fraudulent attempts or phishing attacks to access critical details by posing as a trusted entity or source is rising. One of the most common ways to carry out a phishing attack is by using compromised email accounts. Cybercriminals used the name of organizations or character substitution for exploiting
human instinct and tricking an individual to click on infected emails. This is the reason improved security measures need to be taken such as limited employee network access and multi-factor authentication.
In certain cases, ransomware attacks have caused many organizations to close permanently. A recent study by Comparitech showed that since 2016, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry of the United States has experienced 270 ransomware incidents. This has resulted in a combined cost of about $31 billion. Moreover,
the 2019 Healthcare Cybersecurity Report by SecurityScorecard showed that the healthcare industry ranks 13th out of 18 in regards to effective cybersecurity.
It is necessary to keep in mind that hackers are unlikely to look for patient data, rather they look to interrupt operations for leveraging a ransom from the healthcare organization in exchange for stolen intellectual property or data.
4. Employee Negligence or Error
Employees are the prime driver of data breaches across almost all industries. The Data Breach Investigations Report 2020 by Verizon had placed social engineering attacks in 2nd place due to data breaches. The high-level personnel and C-suite aren’t the only employees who need to be aware of external cyber-attacks. This is because lower-level staff and management are more likely to be targeted.
Usually, cybercriminals tend to leverage human behavior for securing sensitive information including pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo. Thus, it is important to educate and train employees on cyber-attack methods. This keeps them diligent against hackers.
5. The Internet of Things
In recent times, the pharmaceutical industry has adopted the Internet of Things. This is a system of interrelated digital machines and computing devices that can communicate and transfer data across one network. It allows the companies to streamline access to important patient information and documents. They also use big data for monitoring industry trends and trial success.
The unique privacy challenges that the pharmaceutical industry has to navigate cause IoT to increase the cyber risk of the organization. It poses additional vulnerabilities by augmenting the attack surface. Thus, hackers have access to the network.
What Pharmaceutical Companies Can Do?
There are steps that organizations can take for reducing their vulnerability to attack. One of them is to enforce least-privilege policies. This reduces the flanking movement a cyber-attacker makes inside the network. Companies can also ascertain that their developer environment is secure enough, requiring authentication practices and secure transfer methods within their teams.
Giving complete access to individuals might result in costly and irreparable damage. For preventing that, proper management of permission and identities should be a priority for pharmaceutical companies. Organizations can take into account approaches, including machine learning, advanced analytics, and automation for keeping a tab on the identities within the network.
Granular visibility into activities and permissions of an enterprise’s non-human and human identities enables security teams to understand the risk exposures, recognize high-risk permission, and automating the rightsizing of permission without manual interference. Organizations should also continuously monitor sensitive resources and high-risk permission to enable quick rectification of policy violation or configuration drift.
RESOLVE takes your data security seriously as we know more data means more vulnerability attacks. Get your entire healthcare data discovery process done with automated deep data analysis to ensure compliance and keep sensitive data governed with the right set of rules, and policies.
There are ever-evolving and multiple cyber threats that pharmaceutical companies have to face. Instead of trying to solve every issue separately, it is better to adopt a comprehensive architectural approach when it comes to network security. With this approach, pharmaceutical companies can automate, increase visibility, and respond fast to threats that demonstrate compliance. Thus, you will be able to defeat attackers and keep your organization from being vulnerable.