Cyberattack on the European Medicines Agency's server led to illegal access of reports related to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
But BioNTech, the German half of the vaccine partnership, in an official statement, published that the agency informed them that the attack had unlawfully accessed some reports related to the vaccine's regulatory submission. It mentioned that BioNTech or Pfizer systems had not been breached in connection with this incident. They were unaware of any study participants being identified through the data accessed.
The EMA assured BioNTech that the attack would have no impact on its review timeline, that is, by Dec. 29, although its schedule may change. There is no information on when or how the cyberattack took place, who was responsible, or what other information may have been compromised. But BioNTech said that it anticipated further details about EMA's investigation and would respond appropriately and under EU law. The cyber-attack came the day before the agency was due to update the European Parliament on the vaccine assessments' progress.
Hacking attempts against healthcare and medical organizations have intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic as attackers ranging from state-backed spies to cybercriminals hunt for information. Reuters had previously reported on allegations that hackers linked to North Korea, South Korea, Iran, Vietnam, China, and Russia have on separate occasions tried to seize information about the virus and potential treatments. Such documents could be valuable to other countries and companies rushing to develop vaccines. Speaking on this attack Marc Rogers, founder of a volunteer group fighting Covid-related breaches, CTI-League, 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. It also provides detailed information on other parties involved in the supply and distribution of the vaccine and potentially significantly increases the attack surface for the vaccine,”
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.