Cybersecurity Challenges in the Pharma Industry

Understanding and mitigating the rise of cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry

There has been a rise in cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry during the last couple of years. This is due to a host of reasons, not least important of which is the rapid adoption of technology such as AI and cloud storage. While these digital assets have transformed the way we think about pharmaceutical serialization and supply chain optimization, they have opened the door for bad actors to intrude upon sensitive information that is stored on the internet. Not only that, but targeted cyberattacks have been able to disrupt operations on a large scale with ransomware technology. And just because you yourself have not had any negative experiences in this regard, do not think you are exempt. It could just be a matter of time.

But our objective with this blog article is not to fearmonger. Rather, we want to help you understand what cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry exist and provide you with ways to surmount them. If you are trying to keep your company on the cutting edge of pharma tech, then this piece is for you!


The consequences of cyberattacks

Before we move on to talking about specific cybersecurity holes and challenges, it is worth it to at least mention the potential consequences of successful cyberattacks. This will serve to underline the importance of taking the measures we outline at the end of this article.

  • Disruption of operations: As we have previously mentioned, a cyberattack can completely disrupt a company’s operations, resulting in the loss of revenue and potentially endangering lives in the case of pharma.
  • Damage to reputation: Letting your company become the victim of a cyberattack is not a good look in terms of PR and this loss of reputation can subsequently cost you customers and stakeholders.
  • Loss of sensitive data: Of course, a cyberattack can cause you to lose sensitive data like information on patients, drug formulae, as well as clinical trials, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences if this information falls into the wrong hands.
  • Financial costs: It can take a lot of money to recover from a cyberattack when you factor in all the investigation and legal fees

The most common cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry

Finally, we arrive at the section where we list the cybersecurity challenges most prevalent in the pharma and biotech sectors. These are in no particular order and are all worth considering and investigating in the context of your own company. Note that while we use the word “challenges,” this section will also incorporate general holes in cybersecurity as well as the foremost reasons for cyberattacks.


1. Phishing attacks 

Phishing attacks can quickly reach millions of people’s inboxes and cause harm to both individual users and companies. Attackers establish a fake website and send an email message with the intention of tricking users into clicking a link that takes them to a fake, malicious website. The site will either request and steal the user’s login and password combination, or it will automatically download malware onto their device. As a result, attackers are able to steal data, intellectual property, and money from bank accounts. No doubt we have all seen these types of emails crawling around in our inboxes here and there—I am sure you can understand how those with insufficient digital literacy might be tempted.

2. Ransomware 

Ransomware is one of the more vicious types of cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry and it is the one exemplified in the article we have linked to in our introduction. In order to hold information ransom, hackers aim to interrupt and disrupt company processes. Cybercriminals transmit harmful attachments that, when downloaded, freeze and encrypt files and systems in these financially motivated malware attacks. The attacker then demands ransom money, promising to restore access to data and devices once payment is received. As you can imagine, in an industry where information can potentially be the difference between someone living or dying, this is an especially problematic type of cybersecurity breach.

3. Third-party vendors 

Pharma companies rely significantly on third-party vendors to carry out routine tasks such as research and development or even the production and delivery of shipments. Many businesses rely on clinical research firms to advise them on which medical areas to invest in, while others rely on third-party logistics companies to collect, store, and fulfil prescription orders. Any compromise in a third-party vendor’s security can hurt the pharmaceutical organization and result in data loss. Because of these kinds of situations, healthcare cybersecurity is dependent on having policies and practices in place to maintain stringent regulatory compliance.

4. IoT

The IoT (Internet of Things) (link to this article of ours when it is published) has become one of the most useful pieces of technology for serialization and supply chain management but it is also the cause of many cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry. While the additional vulnerabilities that it brings might be a trade-off that many are willing to accept given its exceptional functionality, care must still be taken to ensure it does not become the reason a cyberattack was successful. Furthermore, the industrial IoT (IIoT) is critical to delivering the analytics-enabled data management that pharma organizations require to ensure seamless data sharing across their supply chains. IIoT technologies can improve the efficiency of complicated processes, but they require extensive cybersecurity measures to prevent data compromise.

5. M&A activity

Mergers and acquisitions are typical in the pharmaceutical sector and pose a significant danger to personal data if not managed properly. When two organizations combine or one acquires another, there is a high danger of compromise owing to a potential lack of data protection and due diligence. This topic is covered more extensively on our other website, Nubinno Connect.

6. Human negligence or malicious intent

As it is with many other things, human error is the cause of many cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry. Employees who share data inadvertently or use unauthorized programs and software provide an open door for cyber criminals to intercept or steal information. However, the case can also happen that either current or former employees deliberately share data or create holes in cybersecurity out of direct malicious intent.

7. New technology

For pharmaceutical companies, new technology entails inherent security threats. As a result, it must be verified that all new technologies are appropriately secured and do not expose weaknesses to hackers. Pharma firms require adaptable yet robust cybersecurity processes and standards to safeguard their new technology from cyberattacks and allow them to monitor threats, identify weaknesses, and protect intellectual property. This also strengthens the importance of having a robust staff that is familiar with current trends both in the industry as well as technology used to run operations.


Measures to overcome cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry 

Now that we have seen which challenges and holes in cybersecurity we are talking about, we can focus on providing solutions and ways to work around or eliminate them completely. As with the last list, this one is in no particular order and the efficacy of any one strategy strongly depends on the specific tech makeup and vulnerabilities of each organization.

1. Data Encryption

Data encryption is the process of transforming data into code in order to prevent unauthorized access. This can aid in the protection of sensitive information such as patient information and drug formulations. It is one of the most important security measures given pharmaceutical data’s potential for misuse.

2. Employee Training 

Employees must be trained to identify potential threats such as phishing emails and other dangerous software. They should also understand what makes a strong password when making any company-related accounts. By knowing how to spot links, files, and people with malicious intent, they can stop being a security liability and instead turn into one of your biggest allies in the battle against cyberattacks.

3. Data Backup 

In case of a ransomware attack, performing regular backups can assist in preventing the loss of data. Instead of paying the ransom, a business that has robust and frequent data backup procedures can easily restore it. It is generally good practice to backup important files every so often even if not taking cybersecurity into consideration. You never know—tech can be fickle.

4. Network segmentation 

Network segmentation is the process of dividing a network into smaller parts in order to prevent a cyberattack from spreading. By doing this, an attacker may be prevented from gaining access to private data and systems, or at least all of them. It is a good measure against cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry as well as most other tech-reliant fields.

5. Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication reinforces your login information with an extra layer of protection. Because of this, users must present two pieces of identity in order to utilize a system or program. This can assist in preventing unwanted access to private data because even if a hacker gets hold of one of these identities, they will not immediately have access to the system.

6. Penetration testing

This refers to testing a company’s cybersecurity defences to find weak points that an attacker could exploit. It can assist businesses in locating and resolving possible vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity setup, which is crucial for preventing actual cyberattacks from succeeding.


Navigating new cybersecurity challenges in the pharma industry

And so we arrive at the end of this blog article. We hope you have found it informative both in terms of the challenges we have presented as well as potential ways of overcoming them. Maybe you were not even aware that some of these holes in your cybersecurity might exist. If we have managed to spare even one business from an insincere cyberattack, then we consider ourselves successful!

However, hackers are not the only danger to your company. Strong competition, slow growth, and flaws in the way you conduct business can all be crippling issues. If the possibility of these things inhibiting your success scares you, then look no further than Nubinno! Our services like Assessment and Accelerator can diagnose any issues your business might have as well as provide you with a way to achieve consistent growth. This, of course, includes patching up any holes in your cybersecurity. If this sounds good or if you have any other inquiries regarding serialization or track & trace, get in touch with us and, no matter where you are located, we will see what we can do for you!

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