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Modified vaccine data reveals significant cyber risks


According to the European Medicines Agency, hackers manipulated stolen data related to the coronavirus vaccine before publishing it on the dark web. Cybersecurity analysts said a tactic aimed at dispelling distrust and confusion.

An Amsterdam-based agency that regulates human and animal medicines in the European Union disclosed a cyberattack on December 9.The cyberattack provided information, including email communications about the Covid-19 vaccine.
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BioNTech SE

It was stolen on December 21st before EMA approved the drug.

An EMA spokeswoman said in an email that the hacker published a communication “not complete or in its original form, and / or with comments and additions by the perpetrator.” She refused to comment on the content of the document or the author of the email. CERT-EU, a Brussels-based EU office that helps Brock’s public authorities respond to cyber attacks, said in an email that it has helped the EMA investigate and respond to breaches. I did.

BioNTech and Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment. BioNTech said last month that it learned from EMA that hackers had access to vaccine-related documents. The company said it was unaware of any data leaks that could identify research participants.

Nicola Bressan, Chief Technology Officer of Yalix Srl of Italian cybersecurity firm VarGroupSpA, said about including screenshots of email conversations from Pfizer, EMA, and other EU officials, PowerPoint presentations, and other documentation. It states that 55 leaked files have been posted to two dark web forums. It reported finding data this month.

One post was first published in the Russian Darknet Forum and then in the English Forum.

According to documents viewed by WSJ Pro Cybersecurity, some of the leaked files have names related to peer reviews, meeting notes and vaccine analysis, and responses to regulatory inquiries.

Some of the leaked communications, according to Bressan, mentioned that the US Food and Drug Administration would liquidate the drug quickly due to pressure from the Trump administration in connection with the timing of EMA vaccine approval. He said the title of the post mentions fraud and fake vaccines. EU lawmakers have criticized the EMA for slower vaccine approval than US and UK regulators.

“It’s clear that this kind of information is intended to undermine the reliability of the vaccine, whether it has been manipulated or not,” Bressan said.

Bressan said there were no obvious signs of data changes, such as grammatical errors or visually manipulated documents. Bressan said he was not in contact with the EMA, but notified the Italian postal police about the leak.

Disinformation campaigns can damage a company’s stock price and reputation. Rarely, but misleading information after hacking, such as medical records posted online after a cyberattack on the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 that attempted to damage the reputation of some U.S. athletes. Documents including are published.

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U.S. intelligence agencies said in May that Chinese and Iranian hackers were targeting companies developing coronavirus vaccines. Cyber ​​attacks in Russia and North Korea also targeted the online accounts of seven companies researching viral drugs and vaccines.
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Countries have consistently denied involvement in such cyberattacks.

Benedict Hamilton, managing director of Crawl Business Intelligence and Investments, a division of consulting firm Duff & Phelps, said the spread of manipulated vaccine data could undermine the public acceptance of drugs. Said.

Dietram Schufere, chair of science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said scientists must already counter false information about the Covid-19 vaccine. Manipulated data only makes the job difficult, he said.

“It’s probably the worst time to deal with this,” he said.

Skepticism about the coronavirus vaccine varies from European country to European country. France’s acceptance rate is particularly low, with a December Ipsos poll showing that only 40% of the population wants to be vaccinated.

Lukasz Olejnik, an independent cybersecurity researcher and former adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that complex data on medicines can be easily targeted by disinformation because it is difficult for non-experts to understand. It states. “If someone was already skeptical, they might simply assume that the data was leaked and must definitely contain something of note,” he said.

Kurtis Minder, CEO of cybersecurity firm GroupSense Inc, said the information was later posted on a popular forum known for data breaches and accessible via the regular Internet.

Sven Herpig, director of international cybersecurity policy at Berlin-based think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, said it was difficult to fight hackers to disinformation and attackers could capture data while in the victim’s network. It states that it may try to operate.

Hamilton said it was important to respond promptly and publicly to false information. Investigating disinformation campaigns can be time consuming, he said. “At that point, the damage has already occurred.”

Write to Catherine Stupp at [email protected] And at James Randall [email protected]


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