Why Should Cybersecurity Matter to Life Science Companies?

CyberSecurity_LifeSciencesmage.jpgCybersecurity is a top priority for the White House. President Donald Trump signed an executive order May 11 to make agency heads "accountable for protecting their networks, and calls on government and industry to reduce the threat from automated attacks on the Internet," according to the Washington Post.

It was just in time as cyberattacks shocked the world last week in London as Britain’s health service was hit. Computers were frozen, hospitals and patient care were drastically affected across the country.

Having this executive order is meaningful to businesses because it sounds the alarm. It's an alert to those in government and business that you're vulnerable to attacks of all sorts. You have a responsibility to your employees, investors, customers, and potential customers. Hackers have robbed Google and Yahoo! of user passwords in the past. They have stolen the credit card numbers of consumers of Target and Home Depot.


But those well-known examples are small potatoes compared to what has been happening more recently. For starters, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported in 2016 that "failing to improve cybersecurity could cost the global economy $3 trillion," according to a report by Allen and Overy. And in 2014 the Financial Times reported on the life science industry's particular vulnerabilities. In that article, FT pointed out the findings of Bitsight, a company that measures the vulnerability of companies in cyberspace. It found that cybersecurity of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies worsened at a faster rate than others in the S&P 500.


The President's executive order puts an emphasis on risk management. But before you can assess risks and create a cybersecurity plan, you have to know what kind of attacks threaten you. Discover the biggest risks to companies:

  • Theft of Intellectual Property (IP)

One of the biggest risks for life science companies is the theft of intellectual property (IP). Allen and Overy reports that in January 2016 a major pharmaceutical company fell victim to a cyber attack. That theft resulted in the loss of new cancer treatment research. The authorities charged two scientists and three others with stealing manufacturing secrets and research found for sale in China, according to Allen and Overy.

  • Stealing Personal Data

Run-of-the-mill hackers have been focusing on stealing personal data from computers for a long time now. The practice is rampant and well publicized. Most people know that malware has been used to get social security numbers, bank account numbers, pin numbers, credit and debit card numbers and more. That's why securing the personal data of customers, partners, and employees has to be a top priority.

  • Ransomware

Ransomware blocks or freezes digital devices, so that owners cannot use them until they pay the perpetrators a ransom. This vicious attack has become more prevalent recently. Authorities in the United Kingdom recently warned the public that ransomware is on the rise and the attacks have become more aggressive, according to the BBC. Even fitness trackers and smart watches are at risk. In other words, any device your employees use could be at risk.

The recent global cyber attacks are a call to action.  Our government's highest officials in the Whitehouse and homeland security and the National Security Administration have all sprung into action last week after the global cyber attack on thousands of computer systems world wide last week. Experts are concerned that the malicious ransomeware could linger and copycat applications would start proliferating for some time. New cases were reported over the weekend in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

  • Cyberterrorism

Many erroneously think that cyberterrorism exists as nation-states attacking one another. Actually, terrorists are happy to target businesses that contribute to a country's economy. Of course, life science companies fall under that umbrella. Cyberterrorism can come in many forms. In fact, terrorist hackers could use any of the methods on this list. But they also could target the electric grid of states or nations or put viruses on computers to render them useless.


Clearly, there are risks to securing your personal data and for companies the data that exists on mobile devices, laptops and enterprise systems. All businesses - not to mention individuals - must be proactive.

“Life science companies seem to have more vulnerability because they are developing new drugs and medical devices. And, of course, they have a wealth of sensitive intellectual property, which is the key to their competitive business success.”

Creating a plan for cybersecurity and doing all you can to minimize risk must be on the top of your to-do list. After all, without security, you can't get anything else done.

Michaeline Daboul

CEO, Co-founder of MMIS, Inc.

Posted on May 16, 2017 12:30:12 PM

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