While administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and all over the world continues to encounter challenges, there is another component to America’s vaccine story which will become more relevant as the vaccine effort ramps up: security.
In a report titled, “COVID-19 Vaccine Security Assessment,” analysts at G4S detail the security threats – both physical and cyber – associated with vaccine distribution across the U.S.
The report details the biggest security risks surrounding vaccine distribution, including:
In addition to fraud surrounding PPE, websites, cleaning products, companies and services related to COVID-19, the report cautions, “the risk of counterfeits is likely to wane in the long-term if the availability of legitimate vaccines matches the pace of demand; however, if shortages continue and poorer countries are unable to receive enough vaccines, then the risk of counterfeits will remain very high, according to G4S security and intelligence assessments.”
The report finds that vaccine theft in the U.S. has been minimal thus far, but may increase in the medium-term as distribution ramps us. “G4S assesses that large-scale theft is a relatively low risk within the U.S., but may be a greater risk in other countries where access to the vaccine continues to be limited, where organized crime and traffickers are prevalent and/or where there is a higher level of corruption.”
There is also a risk of isolated cases of sabotage to vaccinations, according to the report. This is especially likely from individuals who subscribe to conspiracy theories against the vaccine. For example, pharmacist Steven Brandenburg pled guilty to attempting to tamper with the Moderna vaccine at a facility in Wisconsin.
- Theft of PII
G4S intelligence analysts assess that the risk of theft of personal identifiable information (PII) is high. “The process of registering for a vaccine appointment — usually through the internet — providing personal identifiable information and the sense of urgency to get an appointment scheduled can increase the chances of individuals not paying attention to signs of fraud.”
Intelligence analysts further assess that there is an increased overall espionage risk when traveling — even to friendly countries. “An individual’s data stored on their phone about vaccine tracking, symptoms, etc. may pose an attractive target for host country intelligence services.”
The cyber threat landscape related to COVID-19 vaccine security has significantly broadened to include state-sponsored (i.e. ‘Advanced Persistent Threats’) as well as individual criminal hacking operations. The threats posed to cybersecurity are significant.
The proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, hoaxes and scams are a high, sustained, long-term risk for vaccine security, according to G4S intelligence analysts.
The reports says that the risk of protests will continue throughout 2021 and is likely to center around mass vaccination sites, government buildings and corporate buildings of vaccine makers. “Organizations and individuals, which feature in COVID-19-related conspiracy theories may also be targeted. Isolated acts of violence are possible, similar to the type of isolated activity seen in recent months against individuals or businesses attempting to enforce other health measures, such as wearing masks.”
- Physical security
There is a risk of isolated attacks against COVID-19 relief efforts, for example at vaccination production and shipment facilities and particularly at vaccination sites, which may have little to control access or increase security, according to the report. “This risk is assessed as most likely posed by individuals or small groups who subscribe to conspiracy theories and is highly unpredictable as it may occur with little to no warning and on a local scale.”
An overall high risk of fraud is likely, according to the report, impacting several of the security threats. For example, frauds and scams are propagated by misinformation and disinformation, include counterfeits and can lead to the theft of personal identifiable information.
In addition to learning more about these threats in detail, along with supply chain challenges and risks surrounding vaccine distribution, click here.