Latest Cyber Threats Aimed at Biotechnology Professionals, Drug Manufacturers

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Biotech drug manufacturers' emails may have been hacked by individuals with sophisticated investment banking skills, according to a report from the New York Times.

The New York Times (NYT) reported on Dec. 1, 2014 that companies in the biotechnology sector might be the latest victims of computer security breaches. The perpetrators, who are thought to be former investment bankers, are using the information they glean to obtain a market edge on the pharmaceutical industry.

Silicon Valley security company FireEye unearthed the information about the apparent cyber attacks. Approximately 50% of the businesses affected by the security breach are in the biotechnology sector, with 10% of the companies identified specifically as drug manufacturers. FireEye is the same company that detected the recent Target malware that resulted in a widespread data breach.

NYT says that because the emails appear to be grammatically correct and do not incorporate malware, the phishing attempts are harder to detect.

Jen Weedon, a FireEye threat intelligence manager, told the NYT that the executives being targeted by these cyber attacks have confidential information in their email accounts that could potentially sway market decisions. Weedon said that the hackers are specifically seeking “information protected by attorney-client privilege, safety reports, [and] internal documents about investigations and audits.”


Dan McWhorter, vice-president of threat intelligence at FireEye, said in a press release that these security breaches meant to help hackers play the stock market are fairly novel; it is the first time FireEye is “seeing a group of very sophisticated attackers actually systematically acquire information that only has true value to a criminal when used in relation to the stock market."