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Covid-19 vaccine data breached

Covid-19 vaccine data breached

Edward Kost
Edward Kost
December 10, 2020

As the world groans in anticipation of the highly-coveted Covid-19 vaccine, cyber attackers are delaying progress by breaching sensitive vaccine data.

BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, is developing a Covid-19 vaccine alongside Pfizer, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation. BioNTech announced that data related to the vaccine was breached while in possession by the European Medicines Agency.

“Today, we were informed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that the agency has been subject to a cyber attack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed.” They said in their statement.

The EMA also announced the cyber breach.

“EMA has been the subject of a cyberattack. The Agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant entities.” 

The EMA will publish a detailed break-down of the incident after the investigation is complete.

“EMA cannot provide additional details whilst the investigation is ongoing. Further information will be made available in due course.” The EMA said in their statement.

The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine documentation was in the process of being reviewed by the EMA when it was breached by cyber attackers.

The Covid-19 vaccine boasts very promising results, up to 95% efficacy in clinical trials. As a result of its impressive potency, the U.S plans to distribute 2.9 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in the first round of shipments, with distribution scaling deep into 2021. 

Expected Covid-19 vaccine progression
Expected Covid-19 vaccine progression - source: bloomberg.com


The BioNTech ecosystem was not breached despite the cyberattack on its third party.

“It is important to note that no BioNTech or Pfizer systems have been breached in connection with this incident and we are unaware that any study participants have been identified through the data being accessed.” BioNTech said in their statement.

This isn’t an isolated incident, vaccine development efforts have been under consistent attack. Here’s a list of just some of the other Coronavirus vaccine efforts that have been targeted recently:

Cyber attackers are not just focused on thwarting vaccine efforts, if a vulnerability is detected, even psychological, it will be exploited.

Since the dawn of the pandemic, cybercriminals have adopted iniquitous strategies to take advantage of a panic-stricken world. Covid-themed phishing attacks continue to flood inboxes, delivering malware instead of the promised redemption of a vaccine.

Whether this data breach will have an impact on the distribution of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine will only be known after the EMA discloses more details about the incident.

How secure is BioNTech?

BioNTech SE is a German biotechnology company based in Mainz that develops and manufactures active immunotherapies for patient-specific approaches to the treatment of diseases.
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