The European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated that it was the victim of a cyber-attack in which the criminals have accessed documents relating to a COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner, declared that its regulatory submission was accessed during the attack.
The EMA was waiting for the approval of the vaccines when the attack happened. Yet, the EMA assured that the cyber-attack will have no impact on the timeline for the review of the vaccine.
Following this, the EMA made the details of the hack public to promote transparency. It also declared that no personal data of participants should be compromised.
The EMA is also in the process of deciding if the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and one made by Moderna are safe for use in EU countries. However, it is not certain if the Moderna documents were accessed or not during the attack.
This cyber-attack represents the latest in a series of attacks and warnings about hacking threats against vaccine-makers and public health bodies. There were also warnings in the summer against Russian intelligence trying to target organizations attempting to develop a successful vaccine.
In October, a pharmaceutical company in India was the victim of a major cyber-attack. Similarly, IBM said the cold storage supply chain used to transport viable vaccines had also been attacked, probably by a nation-state.
This cyber-attack happened the day before the agency was due to update the European Parliament on the progress of the vaccine assessments. However, The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre assured that there was no indication this would affect the unveiling of the vaccine in the UK.