European Medicines Agency targeted by cyber attack

Pierluigi Paganini December 09, 2020

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced it has been targeted by a cyber attack.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced it has been targeted by a cyber attack. The EMA did not provide technical details about the attack, nor whether it will have an impact on its operations while it is evaluating and approving COVID-19 vaccines.

“EMA has been the subject of a cyberattack. The Agency has swiftly launched a full investigation, in close cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant entities.” reads the EMA’s announcement.

“EMA cannot provide additional details whilst the investigation is ongoing. Further information will be made available in due course.”

European Medicines Agency

At the time of this writing, it is not clear whether the cyber attack was successful, either when it took place. The agency confirmed to have launched an investigation into the incident.

The European agency plays a crucial role in the evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines across the EU, it has access to sensitive and confidential information, including quality, safety, and effectivity data resulting from trials.

Some media noticed that the EMA website was taken down for essential maintenance on 3 December, but it is not clear if the event is linked to the cyber attack.

Nation-state actors consider organizations involved in the research of the vaccine a strategic target to gather intelligence on the ongoing response of the government to the pandemic. At the end of November, the Reuters agency revealed in an exclusive that the COVID vaccine maker AstraZeneca was targeted by alleged North Korea-linked hackers.

Healthcare organizations like Johnson & Johnson are observing a surge of cyber attacks carried by state-sponsored hackers during COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, IBM X-Force experts warned of threat actors actively targeting organizations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine cold chain.


Pfizer and BioNTech issued a joint statement that confirms that some documents related to their COVID-19 submissions were accessed by the threat actors.

“Today, we were informed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that the agency has been subject to a cyberattack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed,” Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s joint statement read.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, European Medicines Agency)

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