Lupin reports cybersecurity breach, COVID-19 makes pharma firms more vulnerable

Experts feel that these firms should strengthen their cybersecurity measures. (Photo source: IE)

Indian pharmaceutical company Lupin is the latest victim of a cyber attack. The incident has been reported just a fortnight after Dr Reddy’s Laboratories ‘isolated’ its data centre services after being hit by a similar attack. According to a report by The Indian Express, several industry executives have said that cyber attacks have become more common amid the coronavirus pandemic. Indian pharma companies were vulnerable to such attacks even in the past. Experts feel that such companies, currently plugged into the supply chain for potential coronavirus vaccines, may face more such attacks in the near future.

This is probably because more and more pharma companies are shifting their data to the digital space. It became evident after cybersecurity solutions firm Kaspersky reportedly placed India at the sixth position in the list of countries most vulnerable to such cyber attacks. The development is crucial considering the fact that Indian pharma companies have been playing an active role in delivering affordable medicines to the mass during the pandemic.

Some experts are of the view that the rising threat could also be attributed to the fact that India is among the countries that are at the front of finding a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Dr Reddy’s faced a cyber attack just a few days after it was given a green signal to conduct phase 2/3 trials in India of Sputnik V. It is a vaccine for COVID-19 and has been developed by a Russian research institute. Soon after the attack, the Hyderabad-headquartered company took preventive action of isolating all its data centres and related services.

Lupin might not be directly involved in the development of vaccine candidates for COVID-19, but it had launched its own version of favipiravir earlier this year. Several doctors prescribe Favipiravir drug for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus cases.

However, both the companies asserted that attacks had no impact on their core operations.

Another Mumbai-based firm faced a similar cyber attack recently. According to an executive of the company, cyber attack attempts have increased fifteen-fold in the last 4-5 months. “Our IT team has dedicated its entire strength to keep attackers at bay. I guess hackers are trying to steal information related to the development of COVID-19 vaccines.” this executive added.

A Vaidheesh, former managing director and vice president-South Asia for GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, said that such incidents should be taken seriously. “It must be recognized as a big threat to pharma companies of India because these firms are dealing with too many countries”.

“The time has come when these firms should strengthen their cybersecurity measures. This is very important because any vulnerable company could be the next target,” Vaidheesh told The Indian Express.

Vaidheesh said that such incidents have been on the rise in the West for the last few years. “But the process got accelerated during the pandemic. The chances of security lapses are now higher because everyone is now connected digitally,” he added.

According to cybersecurity software company McAfee, coronavirus related security attacks have increased by up to 605 per cent.  Attacks on firms involved in research, science, and technology have increased by 19 per cent in the period from July to September, the report said.

During the period from July to September, India witnessed 4.25 lakh cloud security breaches.

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