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Monday, 05 October 2020 09:12

Ransomware attack on Philadelphia firm hits COVID clinical trials Featured

Ransomware attack on Philadelphia firm hits COVID clinical trials Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

Several companies, including IQVIA, the firm managing AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine trial, and Bristol Myers Squibb, which is leading a group of companies in developing a quick coronavirus test, have been affected by a ransomware attack on Windows systems at Philadelphia firm eResearchTechnology.

ERT produces the software that is being used in the COVID-19 trials, The New York Times reported, adding that the attack, by as yet unknown ransomware, began on 20 September.

iTWire has contacted ERT for comment.

The NYT report has not made any claim about a foreign country being involved in the attack, though it had claimed on 27 September that "many of the [ransomware] attacks are conducted by Russian criminal groups, some with shady ties to President Vladimir V. Putin’s intelligence services."

However, the report did claim: "More than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean what they can about other nations’ responses, according to security researchers.

"Even countries that previously did not stand out for their cyber prowess, like South Korea and Vietnam, have been named in recent security reports as countries that are engaged in hacking global health organisations in the pandemic."

Of itself, ERT says it has "nearly 50 years of combined clinical, therapeutic and regulatory experience as well as technology and process‑related insights".

It has offices in Philadelphia, Boston, Scotts Valley [California], Maryland Heights (Montana], Bridgewater [New Jersey}, Rochester, Morrisville [North Carolina], Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Bristol in the US.

ERT also has a presence in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, India and Japan.

Contacted for comment, former elite NSA hacker Jake Williams told iTWire: "The only thing that jumps out at me (there's not much meat in the story) is that the customers who had back-ups of their data entrusted with ERT likely fared better than those that had to document on pencil and paper."

Williams, who now runs his own infosec outfit known as Rendition Infosec, added: "Just because you trust someone to manage your data, doesn't mean you shouldn't have a plan for what happens if they can't."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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