Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security

Pharmaceutical Cybersecurity

The pharmaceutical industry might have been, and still is, a key player in the fight against COVID-19 and is still facing many challenges. But a virtual pandemic is among us – and it has been for quite some time. One of the critical aspects that has emerged with the increasing reliance on digital technologies is Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security.

Cyberattacks target anyone and everyone, but some targets are of more value to malicious actors than others. The pharmaceutical industry is one such target. As part of a nation’s critical infrastructure, the industry, across the globe, is relied upon by billions of people. More than five billion people rely on at least one product manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.

Such cruciality, and its access to extensive amounts of sensitive data, make the industry an extremely valuable target for cybercriminals.

Pharmaceutical Cybersecurity: Safeguarding Against Data Theft and Breaches

While cyberattacks come in many forms, the pharmaceutical industry is most threatened by data theft and ransomware. Highlighting the importance of Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security. According to IBM’s 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report, the pharmaceutical industry experiences the fourth-highest average total cost of a data breach. In some cases, data breaches allow malicious actors to harvest credentials to gain further unauthorized access to corporate networks. However, data theft is often enough in itself when the “right” data is stolen. And the pharma industry most definitely provides the “right” data. Pharmaceutical entities often obtain patient information, which is extremely valuable. It is, therefore, no surprise that 80% of data breaches compromise customer personally identifiable information (PII).

Data Breach Report
IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report, 2020

More concerning, however, is the industry’s access to medical information, which is even more sought-after, emphasizing the necessity of robust Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security. Also of value to malicious actors is the industry’s intellectual property. More than 30% of data breaches involve intellectual property theft, according to IBM. And the industry’s key role in the COVID pandemic means many pharma companies’ intellectual property might include vaccine information and distribution methods, which are valuable material to state adversaries. When victim to data theft, the entity faces many consequences, both direct and indirect. Some are the financial costs that are associate with a data breach are lawsuits and fines. However, the loss of business (as a result of diminished trust) accounts for the greatest expense at almost 40% of the entire cost, according to IBM.

Mitigating Ransomware Threats and Disruption

Ransomware is a more harmful type of cyberattack, especially when targeting the pharmaceutical industry. Research by Black Kite found that 10% of pharmaceutical companies are highly susceptible to ransomware, with medium-sized companies as the most prone to such attacks. As part of critical infrastructure, pharmaceutical entities cannot afford any downtime… And the longer the disruptions to operations, the direr the consequences.

In 2017, Merck & Co fell victim to a ransomware attack that resulted in $1 billion worth of damages stemming from downtime and lost sales, underscoring the critical importance of Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security. With a low tolerance for downtime, a pharma enterprise will be more inclined to pay the ransom to ensure their operations are up and running as quickly as possible. With this in mind, targeting the industry during the pandemic will likely bring perpetrators great success. This is especially if a vaccine manufacturer’s cold chain (the organizations involved in providing the sub-zero conditions for COVID-19 vaccines) is hit and vaccine distribution is interrupted. Such a scenario became a reality when AmeriCold, a specialized cold storage provider, was hit with a cyber-attack. Luckily, the attack occurred when vaccines were only in the late stages of development, but it demonstrates just how vulnerable the industry is.

Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

The attacks mentioned above can infect enterprises in several different ways, one being through hardware-based attacks. What makes this infiltration method the most harmful is the ability for hardware attack tools to go undetected. The attack tools, known as Rogue Devices, work on the Physical Layer. Existing endpoint and network solutions do not cover the Physical Layer. Hence, attackers, having infiltrated their target, can operate without raising any alarms. The greatest obstacle for perpetrators of hardware-based attacks is the need for physical access. Implementing robust Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security measures is essential to mitigate the risk of hardware-based attacks and maintain the integrity of critical operations.

Complex Supply Chain

Pharmaceutical companies rely on numerous organizations to carry out operations. Vaccine distribution has added such complexity as vaccines must reach hundreds of millions of people across the globe, meaning more extensive distribution channels. The more entities involved in the supplu chain, the more entry points for hardware attackers, meaning higher chances of successful infiltration for hardware attackers, meaning higher chances of successful endpoint or network infiltration.

Digital Transformation

The industry has widely adopted a digital transformation with operations increasingly dependent on technology to improve efficiency and accuracy. The digital transformation has meant a greater number of devices are in use, including IoT devices. More devices mean more entry points, of which many are used in remote, less secure environments, making them more accessible.


Hardware attackers rely heavily on social engineering, and employees need to be on constant alert to prevent successful social engineering. Employees’ unintencional negligence and carelessness means they are highly susceptible to social engineering techniques.

Lack of Security

Although unable to detect Rogue Devices, security measures can reduce the extent of damage caused by hardware-based attack. However, pharmaceutical companies are know to lack the necessary cybersecurity capabilities for the digital platforms they operate. A lack of sufficient security only make the attacker’s job easier as there are fewer barriers in the way.

Pharmaceutical Cybersecurity: Strengthening Hardware Protection for Safer Operations

While there is no vaccine to stop cyberattacks, there is a way to significantly reduce the risk of hardware attacks with effective Pharmaceutical Industry Cyber Security. Hardware security, is an aspect of security that remains sorely neglected. But, with Sepio’s platform, enterprises have a one-stop-shop for all of their hardware security needs. Sepio enables Physical Layer visibility, providing a panacea to the gap in device visibility by detecting all IT, OT and IoT devices operating across the network and peripheral infrastructure. All devices are visible to Sepio, and validating a device’s Physical Layer information, reveals it true identity.

The solution’s policy enforcement mechanism enables Hardware Access Control by enforcing a strict, or more granular, set of rules based on the device’s characteristics. And, importantly, Sepio instantly detects any devices which breach the pre-set policy, automatically instigating a mitigation process to block the device, thus preventing malicious actors from successfully carrying out an attack.

The solution is deployed speedily, all while using very few resources – that means no hardware and no traffic monitoring. Give us just 24 hours to show you how we do it; we will catch any (cyber) symptoms before you suffer real consequences.

July 5th, 2021