Ransomware attack on a healthcare firm slowed clinical trials

Some of the companies are involved in COVID-19 studies.

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Jon Fingas
October 4, 2020 12:15 PM
BRAZIL - 2020/06/16: In this photo illustration the IQVIA Holdings logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cyberattacks on the healthcare industry are causing more headaches. The New York Times reports that clinical trials slowed down after healthcare software provider eResearchTechnology suffered ransomware attacks starting two weeks ago. IQVIA (a research firm managing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine work) and Bristol Myers Squibb (the leader of an alliance developing a fast COVID-19 test) were two of the largest targets.

Both IQVIA and Bristol Myers Squibb said the effect of the attack was “limited,” thanks in part to data backups, but other eResearchTechnology customers apparently had to track trial patients using paper. It’s not clear if the malware affected any COVID-19 trials.

It’s not certain who’s behind the ransomware, and eResearchTechnology hasn’t said if it paid the ransom to get its computers back.

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Word of the incident comes just days after a suspected massive ransomware campaign against Universal Health Services hindered patient care. Weeks earlier, a German patient died when digital ransom demands forced a hospital to transfer a patient needing vital care. Ransomware appears to be striking deeper into healthcare systems, and it’s having a tangible effect on those systems at a time when they’re needed more than ever.

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