What Are Pharma Cybersecurity Breaches?

The consequences of a pharma cybersecurity breach are significant. These include data theft, exposure, and cost. The article discusses some of the common risks associated with these breaches. In addition to the financial costs, reputational damage is also a serious concern. By following these easy steps, companies can protect patient privacy, avoid fines, and maintain their competitive edge. This article will outline some of the common risks associated with pharma cybersecurity breaches. You can also find out the five pharma cybersecurity breaches to know and learn from to know more.

Data theft

Despite recent data theft incidents affecting pharma companies, they remain relatively rare. However, as the pharma industry continues to move toward digital transformation, pharma industry is increasingly at risk for cybersecurity breaches. This breach often involves the theft of privileged access credentials and personal information such as financial and banking information. Such information can then be sold on the dark web and used by identity thieves. Even if the data is not sold, it can still be ransomed back to pharmaceutical companies and be used by malicious actors to commit identity theft and other crimes. This is a method that helps keep critical data moving forward without putting an additional burden on already busy teams.

In addition to the security of sensitive data, ISO 27001 compliance can help reduce the risk of these cyber attacks. Three major cyberattacks occurred in the Indian pharma industry in 2020. More than 121 million patient medical records were exposed. An investigation of these breaches revealed a correlation between non-compliance with the ISO 27001 standards and the occurrence of these attacks. Companies must ensure a compelling statement of applicability (SOW) to determine the controls required to protect their sensitive data. Further, they must also have a roadmap for technical measures.

Reputational damage

A recent cyber-espionage campaign targeting pharmaceutical companies, known as Energetic Bear and Dragonfly, a series of significant attacks compromised pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, including Merck. These cyberattacks are associated with the Russian military, and the potential damage includes proprietary recipes, production batch sequence steps, network information, and volumes and capabilities of manufacturing facilities. In addition, reputational damage from Pharma cybersecurity breaches can cause widespread business disruption, cripple supply chains, and even lead to trade secret theft.

Pharma is stepping up its security efforts as the pharmaceutical industry faces renewed scrutiny over its cybersecurity practices. According to the 2020 report, the average cost of a cybersecurity breach in pharma is nearly $5 million, and it takes 257 days to detect a threat. Companies must invest in a comprehensive approach to permissions management, utilizing tools such as advanced analytics and most minor privilege policies. Flexibility is critical in cybersecurity.

Data exposure

While cybersecurity risk is a constant in the pharmaceutical industry, the rise of third-party breaches is particularly troubling. These breaches directly correlate to PII exposure – the data that the pharma company collects. This data can then be sold on the dark web, making it highly vulnerable to hackers. Another alarming trend is that executives and employees use company credentials to log into non-essential sites. As a result, pharma companies should take action to ensure that their cybersecurity systems are robust.

Cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of a data security strategy, and pharma is no exception. Even though data breaches are relatively rare, these attacks can still prove costly. Unlike other sectors, the pharma industry is lagging behind many other sectors in implementing robust cybersecurity measures. This significantly impacts their share prices, reputation, and brand image. In addition to monetary losses, cyber attacks can damage a company’s brand image and reputation.


In addition to the reputational damage of a single breach, companies may also lose intellectual property, banking information, and relatives’ details. The most recent breach involving Merck is one of the most high-profile examples of such a problem. The company was one of several global firms targeted by the NotPetya malware, linked to the Russian military, which crippled its in-house production of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Further, the attack compromised its R&D, formulation, and packaging systems.

A recent IBM Security and Ponemon Institute report showed that the average cost of a pharma cybersecurity breach would be $5 million by 2021. However, the bigger the violation, the more damage it can cause. For example, last year’s NotPetya ransomware attack crippled the production of the vaccine Gardasil 9, causing the pharmaceutical company to dip into the national stockpile and suffer $1.4 billion in losses.

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    Gerard Heperd

    Gerard Heperd