Pharma Giant Bayer ‘Contains’ Cyber Attack

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German firm detected hacker code and covertly monitored it for over a year, before clearing it from network

Security officials at the German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences giant Bayer AG seem to be on the ball after they detected and then contained a cyber attack.

It is reported that the Winnti hacking group had gained access to Bayer’s network in early 2018 by using malware to spy on the company. But security teams at Bayer reportedly detected the intrusion and covertly monitored it for over a year.

Winnti are a group of hackers believed to be based in China, and they started life by hacking computer games companies (mostly in Asia), stealing vital data such as games’ source code.

cyber attack

Network intrusion

But they seem to have had less success in Germany after Bayer reportedly detect the malware from Winnti on its network in early 2018.

The security team at the German pharmaceutical giant then spent over a year covertly monitoring and analysing the malware until the end of last month.

The security team then cleared the threat from its systems, the company was quoted by Reuters as saying on Thursday.

“There is no evidence of data theft,” Bayer reportedly said, although a spokesman added that the overall damage was still being assessed.

Industrial attacks

The intrusion represents the growing threat to industrial firms.

Security experts at Kaspersky Lab for example last month warned about the scale of cyber attacks against Industrial Control System (ICS) computers around the world.

That warning came soon after Norwegian manufacturing firm Norsk Hydro admitted it had lost more than $40m, in the week following a ransomware attack that crippled large parts of its control systems for its plants around the world.

Cyber attacks against ICS computers are considered extremely dangerous, as they potentially cause material losses and production downtime in the operation of industrial facilities.

In 2014 for example, a blast furnace at a steelworks in Germany was badly damaged by a cyber attack. That attack resulted in “massive damage to machinery” at the unnamed German steel mill.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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