Ways Cybersecurity Can Protect the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain

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Cybercriminals have identified a lucrative opportunity: exploiting COVID-19 vaccine supply chains. The large numbers of people waiting for the vaccine and the personal and R&D data involved are part of the reasons criminals are targeting the vaccine supply chain.

The Italian Region of Lazio is the recent victim of a cyberattack, which is thought to be a part of an organized supply chain attack affecting other Italian companies.

Cybersecurity remains the best protection for companies and other stakeholders to protect the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain.

The threat to the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain

COVID-19 vaccine supply chains are under intense pressure to deliver vaccine doses across the world. In addition to the demand for these vaccines, supply chains must maintain certain conditions, such as cold storage, to ensure that vaccines remain effective.

Even as they deal with these challenges, actors in the vaccine supply chains are also at risk of cyberattacks. Organized, sometimes state-sponsored, actors actively work to compromise these supply chains.

Most of these attackers will exploit human error to infiltrate systems.  Despite the increase in these attacks, stakeholders in the vaccine supply chain can apply several cybersecurity best practices to protect the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain and their organization’s data. Here are some of them.

1.      Protecting the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain: Phishing Defense Solutions

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have come a long way, and can now be used effectively to prevent malicious emails from reaching recipients. They can also alert the recipient about emails and communications that seem suspicious or isolate them for further investigation.

When a recipient opens an email that is tagged as suspicious, they are more likely to proceed with caution.

2.    Protecting the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain: Adopting a Zero-Trust Approach

Traditional forms of security do not stand a chance against the sophisticated mechanisms of the modern-day cybercriminal. Therefore, it makes sense to approach cybersecurity through a zero-trust approach. In a zero-trust environment, an organization’s systems continuously authenticate processes and users, thus protecting the flow of sensitive data within the organization.

Employing this approach allows continuous monitoring of applications and networks to identify anomalies that could indicate malicious behavior. The zero-trust approach also combats the risk of attacks originating from authorized personnel or vendors, should they be victims of social engineering attacks.

3.      Incorporating Multifactor Authentication throughout the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain

Multifactor authentication provides an additional layer of protection when used together with a strong and unique password. It requires additional proof that you are allowed access to certain information or data within the supply chain.

Multifactor authentication could include additional security elements such as a unique pin, password, or biometrics.

4.      Prepare for Cyberattacks

Today, companies within the vaccine supply chain are not dealing with the possibility of a cyberattack occurring. Instead, they are dealing with the question of when a cyberattack will occur.

With this in mind, Ronald K. Noble, former Secretary-General of Interpol, urges individuals and companies to take cybersecurity seriously. Companies, for example, can create a contingency plan for dealing with cyber incidents.

This plan should cover the protections in place, the risk assessment process, and a disaster recovery and management plan.

Preparing for cyberattacks also means educating employees on cybersecurity best practices, identifying cyberattacks, and the company’s cybersecurity policy.

An Ongoing Threat

Cyberattacks are an ongoing threat to the COVID-19 vaccine supply chains. The global demand for a vaccine against the virus makes this a lucrative opportunity for cybercriminals, and with the healthcare sector already overwhelmed amidst the pandemic, many systems are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. However, healthcare institutions and governments can apply cybersecurity best practices to protect their systems from attacks.


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