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October 6, 2020

Data Under Attack During COVID-19

Alex Woodie

Sandia National Laboratories and IQVIA are among the biotech organizations that are working to safeguard sensitive biological data from cybercriminals that are using the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to expand their attacks.

The storied New Mexico national laboratory today announced that it’s working with BioBright to help it protect two decade’s worth of genomics data and data related to Sandia Labs’ work in synthetic biology, the organizations announced today.

Right now, large amounts of sensitive data about patients’ health and pharmaceutical information are being handled with security models developed two decades ago for academic needs and not industrial risks, according to Corey Hudson, a computational biology manager with Sandia Labs.

“In the past decade, genomics and synthetic biology have grown from principally academic pursuits to a major industry,” Hudson is quoted as saying in a press release. “This shift paves the way toward rapid production of small molecules on demand, precision healthcare and advanced materials.”

BioBright is working with Sandia to analyze potential threats to the supply chain of biological data that has been created among industry, government, and academia to make use of this data. The team is using Emulytics, a research initiative developed at Sandia for evaluating realistic threats against critical systems.

Meanwhile, biotech firms involved with COVID-19 research have been hit by ransomware attack. A ransomware attack on eResearchTechnology, a provider of software used for clinical trials, forced at least two of its customers to resort pen and paper to track COVID-19 research.

Among those who were impacted were IQVIA, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based software firm that is helping AstraZeneca with its COVID-19 vaccine trial (Datanami profiled IQVIA earlier this year for its role in AI-powered COVID-19 research). Bristol Myers Squibb was also impacted by the eRT hack with its COVID-19 test, according to a New York Times article.

(wan wei/Shutterstock)

Cyberattacks have increased since the novel coronavirus started spreading around the world earlier this year. On May 5, the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre issued a joint alert warning that malicious hackers were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as part of their attacks.

Ransomware attacks also appear to be on the rise. Last month, cybercriminals released records of middle school students after the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, refused to pay a ransom.

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