Ransomware attack on health tech firm disrupted COVID-19 medical trials

 

Philadelphia-based health tech eResearchTechnology (ERT) firm suffered a ransomware attack but no patients were affected.

A couple of weeks ago it was reported that a ransomware attack on a German hospital named University Hospital Düsseldorf (UKD) led to the death of a patient. Now, Philadelphia-based health technology firm eResearchTechnology (ERT) has revealed that it was targeted with a ransomware attack.

The facility sells software to health care facilities for developing tests and treatments and currently, the company’s software is in use for creating/testing the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the ransomware attack didn’t ruin any clinical trials but disrupted and slowed down some of the tests.

ERT, which specializes in clinical services and gathers, evaluates, and distributes Electronic Patient-Reported Outcomes (ePRO) for different clinical research phases, was attacked on Sep 20. But the details of the ransomware attack was only shared with media recently.

According to the company, due to the attack, trial researchers couldn’t access data electronically. They had to track their patients through the traditional pen and paper method.

Drug trials across Asia, Europe, and North America utilize software developed by ERT. The company’s website states that since 2013, it has been involved in 50% of all FDA approved drugs.


 

The attack began two weeks back when the company’s employees detected that they couldn’t access their data. The ransomware locked out the data forcing the researchers to resort to other ways of accessing patients’ data.

Affected facilities, according to the New York Times, include the IQVIA research organization that is assisting in AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine trial. Another affected organization is Bristol Myers Squibb, a leading drugmaker currently sponsoring various firms to develop a quick coronavirus test.

According to ERT, they had the data backup due to which they could limit the ransomware attack’s impact. The company’s vice president of marketing, Drew Bustos, revealed that soon after discovering the attack they took the systems offline as a precautionary measure.

“Nobody feels great about these experiences, but this has been contained,” Bustos told the newspaper.

It is worth noting that according to the October 5th press release by ERT, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Corrigan was replaced by Joe Eazor who previously served as CEO of Conifer Health Solutions, CEO of Rackspace, and as CEO of Earthlink.

It is yet unclear if the sudden leadership transition was due to the ransomware attack. Nevertheless, ERT hasn’t yet revealed the number of clinical trials affected by this incident or the ransom amount demanded by the attacks. The incident has been reported to the FBI. 

 

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