Last Updated on 26/11/2021 by Sunaina
Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, claims that an employee stole COVID-19 vaccine secrets in preparation for a job transfer to a competitor. According to Bloomberg Law, the New York-based firm filed a complaint in a Californian district court earlier this week against “soon-to-be-former employee” Chun Xiao (Sherry) Li.
It is alleged that Li uploaded more than 12,000 files to a Google Drive account, including “scores” of confidential documents. They are said to have contained vaccine study analysis as well as information on the development of new drugs. The pharma giant allegedly detected the activity after installing software to monitor for suspicious behaviour, such as file uploads to the cloud. According to reports, the company had already disabled USB access on employee devices.
Li allegedly uploaded the files over the course of three days in October 2021. According to reports, officials at the firm investigated and discovered an email containing a job offer from the Californian pharmaceutical firm Xencor. When confronted, Li allegedly claimed she was simply organising her files offline. According to the report, she deleted the files in the space of a few hours between meetings with Pfizer forensics staff.
Li moved to San Diego from Pfizer’s product development group in China, where he had spent the previous ten years. “Pfizer takes the protection of sensitive and confidential information very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “Protecting that information is critical to scientific innovation, allowing us to eventually deliver breakthroughs for patients.”
According to ImmuniWeb founder Ilia Kolochenko, pharmaceutical companies are a significant target for both nation-state and financially motivated threat actors. “Some intrusion campaigns are extremely sophisticated and may purposefully include false flags, such as insider-related incidents, to distract cybersecurity teams from a much larger intrusion,” he added. “This could also be the case with the recently disclosed Pfizer incident, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions at this time.”