21 July, 2023

Life sciences are one of the most targeted sectors for hackers. Life sciences companies attract cybercriminals for several reasons:

Financial Gain

Life science companies often have substantial financial resources, making them attractive targets for hackers seeking monetary benefits. Hackers may attempt to breach their systems to gain access to financial data, such as payment information, banking details, or investor information. They then exploit this data for various illegal activities, including identity theft, fraudulent transactions, or ransom demands.

Intellectual Property Theft

Life sciences encompass various fields such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical research, where companies invest significant resources in developing innovative products and technologies. Hackers target these organizations to steal valuable intellectual property, including research data, drug formulas, experimental results, or proprietary algorithms. This stolen information can be sold on the black market or used to gain a competitive advantage.

Medical Data Theft

Life sciences involve extensive collection and storage of sensitive medical data, including patient records, clinical trial results, and genetic information. Hackers target these databases to access personal information, which can be exploited for identity theft, insurance fraud, or blackmail. Additionally, medical data can be sold on the dark web for significant sums, making it an appealing target for cybercriminals.

Political or Ideological Motives

Some hackers target life sciences for political or ideological reasons. They might be motivated by opposition to specific scientific research or experimentation involving animals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or controversial medical practices. These hackers seek to disrupt or sabotage the activities of life science organizations as a form of protest or activism.

Cyber Espionage

Nation-states or state-sponsored hackers often target life sciences as part of broader cyber espionage campaigns. They may aim to gain insights into cutting-edge research, new drug developments, or medical advancements for strategic, economic, or military purposes. State-sponsored attacks can be highly sophisticated and well-funded, posing significant threats to the targeted organizations.

To mitigate these risks, life science companies need to invest in robust cybersecurity measures, such as secure network infrastructure, encryption, employee training, and regular security audits. Additionally, collaboration between the private sector, government agencies, and cybersecurity experts is crucial to detect and respond effectively to cyber threats in the life sciences sector.

How Hackers Hack

Hackers use various techniques and strategies to gain unauthorized access to a company's computer system. Here are some common methods they employ:


Hackers send deceptive emails or messages pretending to be from a legitimate source, such as a trusted organization or colleague. These messages often contain malicious links or attachments that, when clicked or opened, install malware on the recipient's computer. The malware can then grant the hacker access to the system.

Social Engineering

This technique involves manipulating individuals through psychological tactics to gain unauthorized access. Hackers might impersonate an employee or someone with authority, tricking employees into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or granting them remote access.

Exploiting Vulnerabilities

Hackers search for vulnerabilities in computer systems, software, or networks. They exploit security weaknesses, such as outdated software versions or misconfigurations, to gain access. They use techniques like SQL injection, remote code execution, or buffer overflow attacks to exploit these vulnerabilities.

Password Attacks

Hackers use various methods to crack passwords or gain unauthorized access to user accounts. These methods include brute force attacks, where automated tools try many combinations of usernames and passwords until they find the correct one, or dictionary attacks that use pre-generated lists of commonly used passwords.


Hackers can distribute malicious software, such as viruses, worms, or Trojan horses, through infected files or downloads. Once the malware is executed on a computer within the company's network, it provides the hacker with unauthorized access.

Insider Threats

Sometimes, individuals with legitimate access to the company's systems intentionally or unintentionally become threats. Disgruntled employees, former employees with retained access, or individuals who have been bribed or coerced by external parties may abuse their privileges to compromise the system.

Remote Access Tools

If hackers manage to gain physical access to an employee's computer, they can install remote access tools (RATs) or backdoors. These tools allow them to control the compromised computer remotely and extend their access to the company's network.

To protect against these threats, it’s crucial for companies to implement strong security measures, including regular software updates, employee training on cybersecurity best practices, the use of robust and unique passwords, multi-factor authentication, intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and regular security audits.

Life Science Product Development Needs a Protected Environment

The LIfe Science product development process, from concept to lab to clinical trials to manufacturing, is typically a long road that requires collaboration among many stakeholders over an extended period - months, if not years. The process also generates reams of documents authored by collaborators both in-house and remote.

While those working in biotech are trained to be security conscious, the very fact of so many parties accessing large numbers of documents creates security risks. Failure to properly secure confidential documents makes them vulnerable not only to the competition, but also to cybercriminals who monitor the life science industry and will target the product development process.

Here are steps a biotech product development team can take to improve document security:


Classify documents based on their sensitivity levels, such as “confidential”, “internal use only”, and “public”.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

Require all parties involved in the development process to sign comprehensive NDAs. An NDA legally binds recipients to maintain confidentiality and prohibits the unauthorized use or disclosure of your documents.

Collaborate in a Secure Environment

Choose an online platform that conforms to the highest level of security certifications and confine all product development activities – archiving and sharing reference documents, generating analytics and commentary, and presenting findings to management, partners, investors, and regulators – to the protected environment.

Among providers, ShareVault’s virtual data room (VDR) conforms to the highest security ratings, conforms with HIPAA's strict privacy regulations, and is the preferred choice for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the leading global trade association for the biotechnology industry.


Ensure that confidential documents are not only encrypted in their archived state, but also in transit as they are shared. Note that ShareVault automatically encrypts all documents at upload at AES-256.

Access Control

Limit access to confidential documents to authorized personnel only. Use strong access controls such as strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and user permissions to restrict access. Since the status of a collaborator may change, the VDR administrator can set an expiration date revoking access after a given date/time. He or she can also remotely “shred” documents, including documents that have already been downloaded. At the appropriate time, the development team can extend access to investors and later to regulators, following the same security protocols.

Secure Data Transfer

When sharing confidential documents among the product development team, use secure communication channels such as encrypted email or secure file transfer protocols (SFTP). Note that ShareVault not only encrypts documents at upload, but also protects file connections via HTTPS over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Document Watermarking

For the “confidential document” category, add dynamic watermarks to help deter unauthorized distribution.

Document Destruction

Establish protocols for document destruction when they are no longer needed. ShareVault provides the ability to ‘remotely shred’ documents even after they’ve been downloaded.

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How to Accelerate the Life Science Product Development Process

ShareVault includes built-in tools that streamline the product development process:

Instant Organization

Smart Search

  • ShareVault’s advanced full-text search engine locates documents quickly with results sorted by relevance and with synopses showing how the searched keyword(s) are used in context.

Interactive Q&A

  • At any point, a collaborating party can click the Q&A feature on a document and pose a question, allowing a fast and easy way to get expert feedback.

Meet the On-going Need for Security Awareness

Security best practices for life science product development include:

Regular Security Audits

Conduct periodic security audits to identify any vulnerabilities in your document security practices. With an audit, a biotech company can proactively address potential risks and ensure ongoing compliance with security standards. When dealing with third-party vendors, conduct thorough due diligence to ensure they maintain a culture of regular security audits and have appropriate security certifications.

Employee Training and Awareness

Biotech and life science companies are frequent targets for cybercriminals. Educate employees about the importance of document security and train them on best practices for handling and protecting confidential information. Keep them aware of new security threats in the industry.

24-hour Support

Security issues can be complex. Fortunately, ShareVault provides round-the-clock support from our IT team, who can answer questions and resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

Have Questions? Let’s Talk!

ShareVault’s built-in tools and features speed the biotech product development process while delivering enterprise-grade security. Since each company has unique needs, ShareVault feature sets and pricing are customized to fit your needs. To receive a customized ShareVault proposal, contact us today!

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