Data In Pharma Needs Better Protection

The consequences of failure are too significant to ignore


The world has recently seen some of the largest and highest profile hacks ever.

From the infidelity website Ashley Madison through to Target, companies are seeing that they are being targeted by nefarious hackers in an attempt to either blackmail companies or simply steal customer information.

The pharma industry is no exception, and according to a recent survey, may be being hit in a more sustained way than many other industries.

A poll by Crown Records Management of 407 senior finance executives found that 12 percent of pharma companies have been attacked between seven and nine time, whilst 8 percent had been targeted between 13 and 15 times. These are not insignificant numbers and although 407 may not be a huge test group, is demonstrative of the issues that pharma companies are facing with the use of their data.

It is not simply a case of people stealing new ideas or user data, like on other websites either. Pharma companies need to be some of the most secretive due to the information they hold on things like patient care and test results from drugs. In order to achieve their ultimate goals of creating drugs that can be used to help fight certain diseases, they need to have sometimes sensitive information.

Should this get into the wrong hands the implications can be profound, with legal cases and fines being only the start of the problem.

Given the speed of communication today the reputation of a company can quickly be destroyed and this is never more important than in medicines, where people are using a company’s product to protect them, cure them or even save their life. If this company has its data hacked, then the chances are that their reputation will be tarnished to the extent that customers may well avoid using the company altogether.

Another possibility with any hacked information, is that the core aspects of a product could be stolen and mimicked themselves. We have seen this extensively in the electronics market, where in 2013 and 2014 fake electronics were the second most seized commodity in the US. If you were to buy a fake phone you may have it break in your hands and waste a few hundred dollars, if you were to use fake medicine, the consequences could be much worse.

Through hacked data, it would be possible to create drugs that look like the real things and may even attempt to try and recreate their effects. However, slight variations in active ingredients or the amounts in each dose can have terrible effects. It is a problem that is currently being taken very seriously, for instance UK customs recently seized £16m ($24.5m) worth of counterfeit drugs that were trying to be sold in Britain.

Unless more is done to protect pharma companies’ data, this problem may increase even further. If the ingredients and processes behind the creation of these drugs is more easily available, we are likely to see the number of people attempting to bypass the law increase.

So whereas a hack of an infidelity company could mean divorces and a hack on an e-commerce site could mean a loss of money, a hack on a pharma company can easily see loss of life.  

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