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7 Cyber Liabilities Every Biotech Company Should Know About

The biotech industry is constantly combatting security threats that exist in the cyber world, but tech alone cannot provide solutions to these risks. Companies must also take the initiative to address liabilities, strengthen defenses, and develop an awareness of potential weak spots.

This is the only way to avoid costly cyber attacks and shield sensitive medical information from compromise. Life science companies must consider these cyber liabilities and develop a defense plan.

1. Data Breaches

Experian made headlines in 2017 when a data breach exposed the personal data of more than 150 million of its customers. This incident caused millions of dollars in damage and eventually led to a costly settlement.

It’s imperative for biotech companies to remain vigilant about the potential threat of a data breach and take preventive steps. This includes changing network passwords regularly, keeping software up-to-date, and storing files securely.

2. Phishing

Phishing attacks first originated in the mid and late-1990s, but unfortunately, they’re just as popular today as they were several decades ago.

Phishing refers to the practice of sending fraudulent messages — usually emails — that appear to originate from within a person’s company or organization. These emails often contain links that prompt recipients to enter their login credentials or other sensitive information.

When recipients do so, they unwittingly give cybercriminals access to their accounts. Life sciences companies can prevent this by training employees to look out for the warning signs of phishing attempts.

3. Compromised Credentials

Phishing attacks aren’t the only way that credentials can become compromised.

There are many other ways that login information can be exploited, too. If employees regularly keep login credentials written on a sticky note, for example, this note could easily be intercepted by an unauthorized party.

In other cases, cyber attackers may use an algorithm to simply generate an infinite number of guesses until the correct combination of login credentials is guessed.

Products such as a GxP platform can help biotech companies prevent this by implementing robust security safeguards. GxP is shorthand for “good practice” and it’s an essential set of standards for any startup in the life sciences.

Features such as unified compliance and data integrity protections ensure that privileged information is secure.

4. Hacking Attempts

Sometimes, cyber-attacks are the result of good old-fashioned hacking. Hackers can target any part of your network, including your server, your IP provider, and your biotech company’s internal systems.

Cybercriminals will typically attempt to gain access by exploiting security vulnerabilities in any of these systems — for example, broken authentication — and then use this access point to maliciously use privileged information.

Hackers may also use security vulnerabilities to knock systems offline or perform other similar malicious actions. Biotech startups should proactively monitor all systems to detect potential vulnerabilities and patch them before hackers can gain access.

5. DDoS Attacks

Another common form of cyber attack — a distributed denial of service attack, also known as a DDoS attack — has become an increasingly common threat to companies.

A DDoS attack unfolds when an attacker maliciously disrupts a server’s traffic. There are some security tools that can prevent DDoS attacks by detecting anomalies and disruptions in traffic before a full-blown attack takes place.

6. Spyware Viruses

In some cases, hackers may exploit security shortcomings to install spyware on a biotech company’s devices. Spyware is a form of the virus that functions by surreptitiously collecting data from a device and transmitting it to an unauthorized party.

Spyware is particularly dangerous because it can be present on a device without the user’s awareness.

This is perilous for organizations in the life sciences that often handle highly privileged data. Warning signs of spyware include slower-than-usual processing times, unusual advertisements or messages appearing on a device, and lower battery run time.

7. Malware Viruses

Much like spyware, malware is a type of virus, but it typically functions differently than spyware. Rather than collecting data from the device like spyware usually does, a malware virus will usually work to gradually damage the device by installing malicious code.

There are many different types of malware, and some types are even capable of enabling remote control of a device by a cyber attacker. Much like spyware, malware can cause a device to have slower processing times and shorter battery life.

Protecting your biotech startup from the most common cyber threats is essential if you want to prevent costly data breaches and security vulnerabilities. Pay attention to these seven phenomena when you’re developing a security plan for your company.