COVID-19 Antigen Firm Hit by Malware Attack

Global biotech firm Miltenyi, which supplies key components necessary for COVID-19 treatment research, has been battling a malware attack.

Over the past two weeks, global biotech firm Miltenyi has been battling a malware attack on its IT infrastructure, the company said in a recent disclosure to its customers. Miltenyi, which has been working on treatments for COVID-19, is still wrestling with phone and email communications in the wake of the attack, it said.

“Rest assured, all necessary measures have now been taken to contain the issue and recover all affected systems,” the company statement said. “Based on our current knowledge, we have no indication that the malware has been inadvertently distributed to customers or partners.”

It said that it was experiencing isolated cases where order processing was impaired by malware in parts of its global IT infrastructure. Though production is back online, some communications issues persist.

“We are still having issues in some countries with out email and telephone systems,” an alert on the site said, along with a link to alternative phone numbers for customers to use to inquire about delays.

Based in Germany, Miltenyi has 3,000 employees worldwide, across 73 countries. The firm is currently supplying  SARS-CoV-2 antigens for researchers working on treatments for COVID-19.

“SARS-CoV-2 antigens offer researchers the possibility to investigate virus-specific immune responses, including antigen-specific B cells and antibodies,” according to the company site.

Miltenyi has not responded to Threatpost’s request for comment, and the nature of the malware is unknown.

Miltenyi’s compromise appears to be yet another in a series of attacks on companies working on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

COVID-19 manufacturer Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories suffered an attack in October which forced it to shut down plants across Brazil, India, the U.K and the U.S.  The Indian-based company is contracted to manufacture Russia’s “Sputnik V” COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also issued a warning last July about suspected Russian group APT29, which DHS said was actively trying to steal COVID-19 vaccine information from research, academic and pharmaceutical companies.

Similarly, the U.S. Justice Department recently accused Chinese-sponsored cybercriminals of spying on COVID-19 researcher Moderna, which just announced a vaccine that appears to be almost 95 percent effective.

The fact that the world is desperately racing for a cure makes these companies ripe targets, Ray Kelly, principal security engineer at White Hat Security told Threatpost last week.

“At the moment, vaccine manufacturers are ideal targets for ransomware as they are on the cusp of finalizing their COVID-19 trials,” Kelly said. “If a manufacturer is hit by ransomware right now, the malicious actors could ask for the type of money we have never seen when it comes to ransom payments.”

He added, “If it comes to choosing between saving lives, or a massive ransom payment, the choice would be clear.”

There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines that ABC reports are nearly ready for wide distribution, both the one from Moderna and another from Pfizer that appears to be 90 percent effective against COVID-19.

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