Protecting the pharmaceutical sector – assessing the cyber threat

28th February 2019


Simon Whitburn
Senior Vice President Cyber Security Services

Pharmaceutical companies and others in the life sciences sector are more at risk than other organisations from the growing cyber threat.

Although there is a background level of constant, indiscriminate attack, pharmaceuticals are a choice target for bad actors intent on waging campaigns that focus on specific organisations, whether the intent is financial gain or activism.

Valuable data

The intellectual property hidden away inside data stores is valuable both for resale and as a tool to wrest control of drug production and distribution for large companies, sometimes with backing from foreign governments. In fact a survey by KPMG revealed that life sciences companies themselves believe that nation-state hackers pose the biggest security threat.

Another survey, looking at the financial cost of data breaches, discovered that the figure for damage in the pharmaceuticals sector is higher per capita than nearly all other sectors. It also revealed that customer churn from the publicity surrounding data breaches is highest among pharmaceuticals, health and financial services.

Sharing in safety

At the same time, safe, secure information sharing is vital for the continued prosperity of the pharmaceuticals sector. Although competitive pressures impose high levels of secrecy, researchers often see collaboration as the only way to speed up time-to-market and combat rising development and testing cycles. Is data sharing completely at odds with cyber security?

The answer is no – but a comprehensive cyber security policy needs to be in place and agreed with third parties. This includes third parties in the pharmaceutical supply chain. From laboratory to market the supply chain can be made more efficient with new technology, but every new link in the chain increases the number of attack surfaces exponentially.

The good news is that pharmaceutical companies are aware of the threats and are investing in cyber security.

Quantifying the threat

To see the current situation at a glance, download our infographic that brings together all the relevant facts and figures regarding the pharmaceutical sector.

Cyber Security and the Secretive World of Pharmaceuticals: How Prepared is Your Business?

Download here