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10 Ways Cybersecurity Can Protect COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chains

10 Ways Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Chains Need To Be Protected By Cybersecurity

  • The Pharma industry has lost $14 billion through Intellectual Property (IP) cyber theft worldwide, according to the United Kingdom Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance.
  • 53% of pharmaceutical IP thefts and related breaches are carried out by someone with insider access, also according to the United Kingdom Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance.
  • The pharma industry’s average total cost of a data breach is $5.06 million, with one of the highest costs of remediating the breach at $10.81 million across all industries, according to a recent ProofPoint study.
  • Over 93% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach in the past three years, and 57% have had more than five data breaches, according to the Cybersecurity Ventures 2020 Healthcare Cybersecurity Report.
  • Gartner predicts the privileged access management (PAM) market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% from 2020 through 2024, reaching $2.9 billion by 2024.

Bottom Line: Having developed COVID-19 vaccines in a fraction of the time it takes to create new treatments, pharmaceutical companies need to protect the priceless IP, supporting data, and supply chains from cyberattacks.

Showing how powerful global collaboration between pharmaceutical industry leaders can be, the world’s leading vaccine producers delivered new vaccines in record time. The IP behind COVID-19 vaccines and their supporting supply chains need state-of-the-art protection comprised of cybersecurity technologies and systems, as the vaccines’ IP is an asset that cyber attackers have already tried to obtain.

Pharmaceutical’s Growing Number of Threat Surfaces Make Cybersecurity a Priority 

In the race to create a COVID-19vaccine by collaborating across the industry, pharmaceutical companies have exposed more threat surfaces than existed before the pandemic. In R&D, Clinical Trials, Manufacturing, and Distribution, there’s a proliferation of new threat surfaces cyber attackers are targeting today, as evidenced by threat analysis reports from the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The report provides specifics about how cyber attackers could impersonate an executive from a Chinese biomedical company known for having end-to-end cold chain expertise, which is essential for delivering vaccines reliably. The cyber attackers conducted spear-phishing attacks against global companies who support the global cold chain needed for distributing vaccines. There were credential harvesting attempts against global organizations in at least six countries known today to access vaccine transport and distribution sensitive information.

Launching a phishing campaign with the goal of harvesting details on key executives and access credentials across the cold chain is just the beginning. According to Lookout’s Pharmaceutical Industry Threat Report, some of the most significant threat surfaces are the most problematic today, including the following:

Research & Development & Clinical Trials

  • Collaborative research teams across pharmaceutical manufacturers globally
  • Scientists creating initial compounds and completing primary research to define a vaccine.
  • Integration of study sites at the test device and reporting system level

Manufacturing and Distribution

  • Plant workers’ systems, including tablets with build instructions on them
  • Physician & Pharmacist Networks
  • Distribution Channels and their supporting IT systems

Cyber attackers are taking a more synchronized, multifaceted approach to attacking Covid-19 supply chains, reiterated in CISA’s report. There’s evidence that state-sponsored cyber attackers attempt to move laterally through networks and remain there in stealth, allowing them to conduct cyber espionage and collect additional confidential information from victim environments for future operations. Cyber attackers are initially focused on phishing, followed by malware distribution, registration of new Covid-specific domain names, and always looking for unprotected threat surfaces.

10 Ways Cybersecurity Can Protect COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chains

By combining multiple cybersecurity best practices and strategies, pharmaceutical companies stand a better chance of protecting their valuable IP and vaccines. Presented below are ten ways the pharmaceutical industry needs to protect the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain today:

  1. Prioritize Privileged Access Management (PAM) across the vaccine supply chain, ensuring least privilege access to sensitive data starting with IP. CISA’s note finds that there have been multiple attempts at capturing privileged credentials, which often have broad access privileges and are frequently left standing open. PAM is needed immediately to institute greater controls around these privileged accounts across the supply chain and only grant just enough just-in-time access to sensitive IP, shipping and logistics data, vaccination schedules, and more. Leaders include Centrify, which is noteworthy for cloud-based PAM implementations at the enterprise and supply chain levels. Additional vendors in this area include BeyondTrust, CyberArk, Ivanti, Thycotic, Ping Identity, and Senhasegura.
  2. Assess every supplier’s security readiness in vaccine supply chains, defining minimum levels of compliance to security standards that include a single, unified security model across all companies. In creating a secured vaccine supply chain, it’s imperative to have every supplier network member on the same security model. Taking this step ensures accountability, greater clarity of roles and responsibilities, and a common definition of privileged roles and access privileges.  Leaders in this area include BeyondTrust, Centrify, CyberArk, Ivanti, and Thycotic.
  3. Taking a Zero Trust-based approach to secure every endpoint across the vaccine manufacturer’s R&D, Clinical Trials, Manufacturing, and Distribution networks is necessary to shut down cyber attackers taking advantage of legacy security weaknesses approaches. The pharmaceutical companies and myriad logistics providers see a much faster than the expected proliferation of endpoints today. Trusted and untrusted domains from legacy server operating systems are a time sink when it comes to securing endpoints – and proving unreliable despite the best efforts that Security Operations teams are putting into them. Worst of all, they leave vaccine supply chains vulnerable because they often take an outdated “trust but verify” cybersecurity approach. Leaders include Illumio, Ivanti (MobileIron), Cisco, Appgate, Palo Alto Networks, and Akamai Technologies.
  4. Extend the Zero Trust framework across the entire supply chain by implementing microsegmentation and endpoint security requirements across all phases of the vaccine’s development cycles. This will ensure cyber attackers don’t have the opportunity to embed code to activate later. The goal is to push Zero Trust principles to all related processes integrating with the vaccines’ pipeline, including all dependencies across the entire development lifecycle.
  5. Incorporating Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) across every system in the vaccine supply chain is a given. Usernames and passwords alone are not enough, and MFA is low-hanging fruit to authenticate authorized users. MFA is based on two or more factors that can authenticate who you are based on something you know (passwords, PINs, code works), something you have (a smartphone, tokens devices that produce pins or pre-defined pins), or something you are (biometrics, facial recognition, fingerprints, iris, and face scans). For example, Google provides MFA as part of their account management to every account holder and has a thorough security check-up, which is useful for seeing how many times a given password has been reused.
  6. Alleviate the conflicts of who will pay for increasing cybersecurity measures by making supplier-level security a separate line item in any CISOs and CIO’s budget. Today certain pharma supply chain CISOs are expected to ramp up cybersecurity programs with the same budget before Covid-19. While there are slight increases in cybersecurity budget levels, it’s often not enough to cover the higher costs of securing a broader scope of supply chain operations. CISOs need to have greater control over cybersecurity budgets to protect vaccine IP and distribution. Relying on traditional IT budgets controlled by CIOs isn’t working. There needs to be a new level of financial commitment to securing vaccine supply chains.
  7. Consider using an AIOps platform adept at unifying diverse IT environments into a single, cohesive AI-based intelligence system that can identify anomalous network behavior in real-time and take action to avert breaches. Based on conversations with CIOs across the financial services industry, it is clear they’re leaning in the direction of AIOps platforms that provide real-time integration to cloud platforms combined with greater control over IT infrastructure. LogicMonitor’s prioritizing IT integration as a core strength of their platform shows, as they have over 2,000 integrations available out of the box. Relying on Collectors’ agentless system, LogicMonitor retrieves metrics such as cloud provider health and billing information. This collector then pulls metrics from different devices using various methods, including SNMP, WMI, perf Mon JMX, APIs, and scripts.
  8. Unified Endpoint Security (UES) needs to become a standard across all vaccine supply chains now. Vendors who can rapidly process large amounts of data to detect previously unknown threats are needed today to stop cyberattacks from capturing IP, shipment data, and valuable logistics information. Absolute Software’s approach to leveraging its unique persistence, resilience, and intelligence capabilities is worth watching. Their approach delivers unified endpoint security by relying on their Endpoint Resilience platform, which includes a permanent digital tether to every enterprise’s endpoint. Absolute is enabling self-healing, greater visibility, and control by having an undeletable digital thread to every device. Based on conversations with their customers in Education and Healthcare, Absolute’s unique approach gives IT complete visibility into where every device is at all times and what each device configuration looks like in real-time.
  9. Pharma supply chains need to have a strategy for achieving more consistent Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) across every device and threat surface of the vaccine supply chain. UEM’s many benefits, including streamlining continuous OS updates across multiple mobile platforms, enabling device management regardless of the connection, and having an architecture capable of supporting a wide range of devices and operating systems. Another major benefit enterprises mention is automating Internet-based patching, policy, configuration management. Ivanti is the global market leader in UEM, and their recent acquisition of Cherwell expands the reach of their Neurons platform, providing service and asset management from IT to lines of business and from every endpoint to the IoT edge. Neurons are Ivanti’s AI-based hyper-automation platform that connects Unified Endpoint Management, Security, and Enterprise Service Management. Ivanti is prioritizing its customers’ needs to autonomously self-heal and self-secure devices and self-service end-users.
  10. Track-and-traceability is essential in any vaccine supply chain, making the idea of cyber-physical passports that include serialization for vaccine batches more realistic given how complex supply chains are today. Passports are an advanced labeling technology that provides the benefits of virtual tracking, verification of specific compounds, and yield rates of key materials. Serialization is a must-have for ensuring greater traceability across vaccine supply chains proving effective in stopping counterfeiting. Having digital passports traceable electronically can further help thwart cyber attackers.

Conclusion

By closing the cybersecurity gaps in vaccine supply chains, the world’s nations can find new, leaner, more efficient processes to distribute vaccines and protect their citizens. It’s evident from the results achieved so far in the U.S. alone that relying on traditional supply chains and means of distribution isn’t getting the job done fast enough, and cyber attackers are already looking to take advantage. By combining multiple cybersecurity tactics, techniques, and procedures, the vaccine supply chain stands to improve and be more secure from threats.

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