Understanding online attacks on pharmaceuticals

On December 3, 2023

Understanding online attacks on pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceutical (pharma) industry is a prominent target for cybercriminals since it houses some of the most sensitive data and valuable technologies. Organizations that host sensitive data about patients, patented medicines, clinical trials, research initiatives, and technological advancements put cybersecurity in the pharmaceutical business at danger.

Pharmaceutical firms have significant cyber-security concerns as a result of the rapid speed of technological advancement, the rise of automation systems, and the usage of third-party vendors. Implementing security standards and comprehensive and robust strategies that protect digital assets and decrease cyber-attacks on pharmaceutical companies is a major problem for information security in the sector. This will assist in preventing a catastrophic loss of data that can undermine patient and customer confidence in pharmaceutical businesses, ruin their brand image, and cause share prices to crash. Yet, due to high-profile hacks, the pharmaceutical business has started to prioritise the need for stronger security, despite the fact that it has not historically been at the forefront of cybersecurity.

Cyber Threats to pharma Industry

Due to the private and sensitive data that the pharmaceutical sector handles, cybersecurity is essential. The pharmaceutical sector values cybersecurity for the following reasons:

• Protection of Intellectual property: Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money on research and development to produce new medicines that are protected by intellectual property rights. Cyberattacks can jeopardise the integrity and confidentiality of this priceless data, endangering the company’s intellectual property.

• Patient Safety: By enabling hackers to access patient data, change medications, and even manipulate medical devices, cybersecurity breaches can also jeopardise patients’ safety. Serious implications including misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment, or even fatalities may occur from this.

• Regulatory Compliance: The pharmaceutical sector is heavily regulated, and regulatory organisations like the FDA have severe compliance standards. Incompliance brought on by a cybersecurity breach may result in fines, legal action, and reputational harm.

• Supply Chain Security: A number of parties, including producers, distributors, and retailers, are involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Any one of these stakeholders may be the target of a cyberattack that would disrupt the supply chain, delay the delivery of drugs, and ultimately have an impact on patient care.

• Reputational harm: A cybersecurity breach may lead to unfavourable press coverage and a decline in consumer, shareholder, and other stakeholders’ trust. This could have a big effect on the company’s brand image and ultimately have a negative financial impact.

What types of attacks faced by faced by the pharma Industry?

Third party vendors

For routine tasks like research and development, pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on outside providers. Some businesses utilise third-party logistics companies to receive, store, and fulfil their medicine orders, while others rely on clinical research firms to advise them on the medical fields, they should invest in.

Any security lapse experienced by a third-party vendor can hurt the pharmaceutical company and lead to the loss of their data. In order to ensure that they comply with stringent regulatory compliance standards, healthcare cybersecurity depends on having procedures and policies in place.


To hold businesses to ransom, ransomware hackers aim to obstruct and disrupt corporate activities. Cybercriminals transmit infected attachments that, when downloaded, lock up and encrypt machines and files as part of these financially motivated malware attacks. The assailant then makes a ransom demand, promising to release data and device access in exchange for the money.

Phishing Attacks

Millions of people’s email inboxes can be readily breached by phishing attempts, which can harm users and companies. In order to get access to an email account, phishing attacks try to get targets to click on a dangerous link.

Attackers establish a fake website and send emails to recipients with the intention of tricking them into clicking a link that takes them to the website. Either the site will request the user’s login and password combination and steal it, or it will immediately download malware onto the user’s device. Attackers can use this to take information, intellectual property, and money from bank accounts.

How to prevent a cyber-attack in pharma industry?

Deception Technology:

A pharmaceutical corporation incorporates deception technologies into its overall cybersecurity strategy as part of its protection against cybersecurity threats. Deception technology employs decoys, or traps, that seem like the real IT resource on a network. Deception technology uses lot of manual labour and specialized knowledge to deploy, oversee, and maintain. However, the technology may be regaining popularity among healthcare companies in part, as a result of virtualization and automated deployment.

End-point Detection and Response:

Again, technology should support humans when human error occurs. The next step that providers should consider taking is transitioning from anti-virus to endpoint detection and response (EDR) products.

EDR is sometimes marketed as the next-generation antivirus since it focuses on processes rather than malware signatures, which is how standard antivirus works. Every file has a signature (hash), which functions as a kind of digital fingerprint for computers, and anti-virus software frequently receives updates with new malware signatures and their variants. More and more attacks are evading anti-virus detection thanks to native tooling and polymorphic viruses (viruses that can modify their form and ultimately their signature).Healthcare providers and first responders should be able to execute their duties with little disruptions, especially from malware and viruses. EDR also offers minimum intrusiveness, and when properly set, it can be a powerful weapon for preventing assaults even before they start.


Cybersecurity is essential in the pharmaceutical sector to safeguard reputation, supply chain security, patient safety, and intellectual property.