With efforts ramping up to produce and distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, Virginia Tech expert Aaron Brantly warns that potential cyberattacks could have significant impacts on the vaccine distribution process that would undermine progress to slow the spread of the virus and cause economic loss to communities.

Quoting Brantly

“Billions of dollars in economic losses; tens of thousands of lives both lost or irrevocably damaged due to the ravages of the virus; disrupted communities and losses of political rights are at risk from cyberattacks and espionage,” says Brantly. “Slowing the return to normal undermines societal stability and harms actors at every level.”

“Covid-19 vaccines are immensely valuable intellectual property. They are valuable both intrinsically as products of value - the production and sale of the vaccines are worth billions of dollars - but they are also critical to re-establishing the global economy,” says Brantly. “For both these reasons there is great desire to steal information that might lead to the creation of vaccines by third party nations.”

“The race to reignite state economies also has profound economic, human, and political security equities,” says Brantly. “All states are currently suffering significant economic impacts as a result of the virus. States that vaccinate faster will reopen their economies safely faster. This will result in improvements in human rights, and foster political stability.”  

Brantly says that recognizing the cyber threat posed to the global vaccination campaign and building cybersecurity practices to anticipate and address malicious behaviors will go a long way towards preventing them from occurring.

“Building relationships with state and federal partners in cybersecurity is a further step that most organizations can take to ensure they are more secure against potential attacks or espionage.”  

About Brantly
Aaron Brantly, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech and Director of the Tech4Humanity Lab, has worked on issues related to cybersecurity from multiple angles, including human rights and development, intelligence and national security, and military cybersecurity. His interests span the political science and computer science divide. More here.

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