At a time when COVID-19 vaccines are already being distributed in many countries around the world, the security and integrity of information systems must also be a priority for pharmaceutical companies. Measures to prevent cyberattacks can be decisive factors in the success of this industry. This article explains why.
As pharmaceutical companies continue to embrace the digital transformation, highly sensitive, valuable information becomes increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack. Those responsible for threats to electronic security currently have advanced technological resources that enable them to make more sophisticated hacks into the intranet of pharmaceutical companies. In July 2020, cybersecurity agencies and authorities in the United Kingdom and Canada launched a joint statement warning of attacks on facilities researching and developing COVID-19 vaccines. Their main concern was that these attacks could delay vaccine delivery, placing human life at risk.
To successfully overcome hacker attacks directed at the pharmaceutical industry, it is important to understand some key challenges in this sector:
Thanks to the integration of devices with technology based on the "Internet of Things" (IoT), the capacity for launching attacks has expanded rapidly. Several other digital innovations are also contributing to the increase in the number of targets in pharmaceutical companies' data networks, namely, cloud migration, medicine and tele-health, and the massive increase in remote working.
Most pharmaceutical companies face having to carry out maintenance on their security systems that are often too complex and do not keep up with the architecture of the network's infrastructure. Thus, solutions must be smarter and more integrated, allowing the organization to be responsive in line with organizational growth and the digital transformation, and avoiding the waste of IT resources on the work-intensive task of managing all security controls separately.
The strategy of growth through acquisition can create security challenges in that many companies that are taken over do not have security infrastructures that are suitable or easy to integrate. On the other hand, the integration of a complex digital network must include best cybersecurity practices. Intellectual property, electronically protected health information, and other sensitive operating data are routinely accessed and sometimes transferred. That is why it is important to ensure information integrity throughout these processes.
Pharmaceutical companies may also have to deal with risks arising from internal threats. The damage caused by internal sources is usually difficult to detect because these threats cover a wide range of behaviours and motives. Imagine a disgruntled employee who tries to disrupt operations, or an employee who wishes to earn extra money through the sale of customer data, for example.
The development and increasing complexity of regulatory requirements makes it harder to implement the necessary security controls across the network. Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies have concentrated their security efforts on meeting legal and compliance requirements. However, the reality is that most organizations struggle to demonstrate wide-ranging compliance, and data integrity is a new, important requirement to take into account as the organization goes digital.
In the evolving circumstances of this digital transformation as applied to the pharmaceutical sector, agents in the sector must be made aware of the importance of reinforcing cybersecurity mechanisms through the whole value chain. Adopting a holistic, integrated view can be the best response to preserving the integrity of internal information networks. This approach makes it possible to automate processes more extensively and provide a faster, more effective response when it comes to possible threats to the security of information flow within organizations.