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The Prescriptions for Pharmaceutical Data Security

Pharmaceutical Data Breach

Pharmaceutical data security has become a much-discussed topic. That’s particularly true due to the sector’s tight regulations and the high potential for significant ramifications if breaches happen. People must treat the protection of data as a multifaceted and ongoing effort.

Stay Aware of the Most Likely Threats

A good starting point is learning pharmaceutical data’s most significant risks. Then, people will have the information necessary to reduce those issues by implementing appropriate safeguards. Another approach is to follow a highly respected cybersecurity framework and use it to identify weaknesses. Hiring an external expert to assess a pharmaceutical company’s current data protection practices can achieve a similar purpose.

One cybersecurity firm’s study found a staggering 530% increase in vaccine-related phishing attacks from December 2020 to February 2021. Most cybercriminals capitalized on the significant worldwide interest surrounding pharmaceutical companies’ production of COVID-19 vaccines.

Then, in September and October 2022, two India-based pharmaceutical companies suffered ransomware attacks. Cybersecurity experts also advise how people in this sector should expect ransomware to remain a threat for the foreseeable future. One notable pharmaceutical data security complication is that criminals don’t always just make data inaccessible and demand a ransom. They also threaten to leak the data online, often in dark web forums.

That reality can make it harder for affected pharmaceutical companies to determine the whereabouts of compromised data or even what hackers took. However, whether people in the pharmaceutical industry are most concerned about ransomware attacks or other threats, they must take the time to understand the biggest aspects that could affect data security and learn how to minimize them.

Know the Data Types and Where the Information Resides

People often say it’s impossible to protect data if they don’t know what kind they have and where it is within a company. Thus, a foundational part of pharmaceutical data security requires getting those details and keeping the relevant information updated.

For example, the kind of data you have and its storage location will undoubtedly change if the pharmaceutical company where you work expands to open a new department or hire more team members. The information level will also rise if the business begins a new clinical trial associated with one of its products.

Information also comes from places people may initially overlook. Data loggers are excellent examples, as they can verify the correct humidity and pressure during manufacturing operations. These devices also show pharmaceutical manufacturers whether medicines remain within specified temperature ranges during transit. However, since pharmaceutical companies frequently use data loggers outside their facilities, people may need to remember to keep the relevant information safe.

Creating a data inventory that shows the information type, its location and any other helpful specifics is a necessary part of keeping the data safe. Doing so is also critical because specific information — such as that which contains confidential details — may need protection according to particular regulations.

Learn About Breach Exposure Risks

Some people in the pharmaceutical industry may believe hackers will target other sectors. However, that’s a dangerous assumption. A 2022 report from Constella studied the effect of data breaches and leaks on the top 20 global Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies from 2018 to 2021. The results showed such events compromised more than 4.5 million records during almost 10,000 incidents.

Another finding was that 76% of the record exposures occurred since 2020, suggesting these incidents have dramatically accelerated. Relatedly, almost two-thirds of the data security issues studied here compromised personally identifiable information.

The complex thing is breaches can happen in various ways. Sometimes, malicious outsiders cause them through carefully targeted cyberattacks. However, a recent AstraZeneca data breach occurred when a developer mistakenly left credentials publicly visible for more than a year. The data included patient information.

Vendors can also compromise pharmaceutical data security, particularly when those entities don’t engage in the proper safeguards or suffer breaches. Statistics indicate third-party involvement can make data breaches hundreds of thousands of dollars more expensive, highlighting the need for thorough audits.

Increase the Pharmaceutical Data Security Budget

Many pharmaceutical companies will need to increase their data security budgets to achieve related goals. Some have recently done so by hiring more cybersecurity experts. A GlobalData report indicated global pharmaceutical companies posted 41.3% more cybersecurity jobs during December 2022 than the previous month.

Decision-makers may also need to approve more spending dedicated to data security tools. For example, some products automatically obtain consent from parties before companies take their data for various uses. Such tools make it easier to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Increasing the spending on employee education also matters. Many cybercriminals try to get people to forget data security best practices by creating elaborate phishing scams or deploying social engineering practices. However, when pharmaceutical industry workers receive ongoing education about how to keep information safe, they’ll be less likely to fall for those tricks.

Some industry employees don’t perceive data security as a primary part of their jobs. Even if they primarily work in front of laboratory beakers rather than computer screens, most people at least occasionally handle data that needs protecting. Treating data security as a foundational part of the company culture will help solidify its importance.

Pharmaceutical Data Security Must Get Prioritized

Pharmaceutical data breaches could cause substantial reputational damage, causing affected companies to lose profits and fall behind with projects. However, the actionable strategies here can make problems less likely to occur and minimize the damage if they do.

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