With the world in the midst of a massive COVID-19 vaccine rollout, security experts are keeping a close eye on any “bad actors” who threaten the manufacture and/or distribution of these critical formulas. Reliant on an intricate web of global entities, the rollouts have already been impacted by several different cyberattacks and other threats.
More threats could emerge in 2021 as countries around the globe rush to get their citizens vaccinated against the persistent, pervasive virus (and the new variants that continue to surface).
“As vaccine distribution continues through 2021,” Security Magazine states, “the companies managing the process must proactively think about their current risk level, how they can decrease that risk, and how they can strengthen their security posture moving forward.”
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, IBM Security X-Force developed a “threat intelligence task force” focused on identifying cyber threats against organizations that are keeping the vaccine supply chain moving.
As part of these efforts, IBM uncovered a global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with a COVID-19 cold chain, which ensures the “safe preservation of vaccines in temperature-controlled environments during their storage and transportation,” Security Intelligence reports.
IBM says the calculated operation started in September 2020 in the form of a COVID-19 phishing campaign spanning across six countries and targeting numerous different organizations. Disguised as an executive from a credible and legitimate member company of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain, the adversary sent phishing emails to organizations believed to be providers of material support to meet transportation needs within the COVID-19 cold chain.
“We assess that the purpose of this COVID-19 phishing campaign may have been to harvest credentials, possibly to gain future unauthorized access to corporate networks and sensitive information relating to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution,” IBM’s Claire Zeboeva writes in Security Intelligence.
A Prime Target
In Hackers are targeting Covid-19 vaccinations. Here’s how to stop them, VMWare’s Tom Kellerman says that the COVID-19 vaccine has been a “constant target for cybercriminals from creation to deployment.” Along with the December 2020 hack that IBM identified, he says that the documents accessed in that breach were manipulated before being leaked on the dark web, creating concerns about ways they might be leveraged in the future.
“These incidents underscore the threat that cyberattacks targeting COVID-19 could pose to the public, but the risks don’t stop there,” Kellerman points out. “Researchers have already detected ongoing campaigns aiming to take advantage of individuals seeking access to the vaccine, and even personal data being sold on the dark web.”
Specific to the vaccine distribution chain, Kellerman says that healthcare remains one of the “most targeted and vulnerable industries to cyberattacks due to the sensitivity and value of the data it utilizes, as well as the difficulty of securing the disparate systems on which it operates.” The fact that hackers see the COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts as a new target hasn’t helped the situation.
Closing the Gaps
As organizations take steps to steel their vaccine supply chains against potential threats, Dassault Systèmes’ Louis Columbus says assessing every suppliers’ security readiness, taking a “zero trust” approach to securing supply chain endpoints, and putting good track-and-traceability measures in place can all help ensure higher levels of security in these critical networks.
“By closing the cybersecurity gaps in vaccine supply chains, the world’s nations can find new, leaner, more efficient processes to distribute vaccines and protect their citizens,” Columbus writes in Forbes.
“It’s evident from the results achieved so far in the U.S. alone that relying on traditional supply chains and means of distribution isn’t getting the job done fast enough and cyber attackers are already looking to take advantage,” Columbus continues. “By combining multiple cybersecurity tactics, techniques, and procedures, the vaccine supply chain stands to improve and be more secure from threats.”
Nuspire’s John Ayers points to security awareness training, proper data classification (i.e., protecting, labeling, and monitoring all sensitive data), and maintaining strong access controls as other good strategies companies can use to protect their vaccine supply chains. “Know who is accessing what, when, and from where,” writes Ayers, who recommends solutions like identity and access management (IAM), privileged access management (PAM), and multi-factor authentication.
“When everyone in a supply chain is on high alert,” Ayers concludes, “insider threat risk decreases and organizations can more efficiently and effectively identify, react to and remediate spear-phishing and other threats.”
When it comes to supply chain security, global logistics provider DB Schenker offers a range of solutions that enhance physical security. For example, the AirTrack project provides geolocation and temperature tracking devices that deliver 24/7 information stream to DB Schenker and its customers. These physical tracking devices provide an additional layer of security in the supply chain and distribution.