The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is the EU’s lead authority for evaluating products such as COVID-19 vaccines, says it has been targeted by a cyber attack.
The agency is responsible for authorising the use of COVID-19 vaccines across the EU, and has access to quality, safety and effectivity data generated by the pharmaceutical researchers’ trials.
It is not clear whether the cyber attack was successful, nor whether it will have an impact on the agency approving coronavirus treatments.
In a short statement published on its website, the agency said: “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.
“EMA cannot provide additional details whilst the investigation is ongoing. Further information will be made available in due course,” it concluded.
It is not known when the attack on the EMA took place.
It is potentially unrelated that the agency’s website, which is hosted on a European Union subdomain, was taken down for essential maintenance on 3 December.
The announcement comes a week after an alert issued by the US government and technology company IBM warned of a cyber espionage campaign targeted at organisations vital to the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
It also follows an announcement in July from Britain, the US and Canada that Russian cyber spies were trying to steal research into coronavirus vaccines and treatment.
IBM said emails in the espionage campaign were sent to 10 organisations, including the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union, which handles tax and customs issues across the EU.
Claire Zaboeva, an IBM analyst involved in the detection, told Associated Press that the EU agency – which is revising import and export regimes for vaccines – “would be a gold mine” for hackers seeking to access other organisations.
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