Josh Corman, the former chief security officer at PTC who joined the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in July as a Visiting Researcher to support the agency’s COVID-19 response effort, warned on Sept. 16 that any significant delay in distributing coronavirus vaccines – by malicious hackers or otherwise – could endanger the lives of millions of people.

Speaking at CISA’s 3rd Annual Cybersecurity Summit, Corman delivered an impassioned plea for government, the private sector, white-hat hackers, and others to cooperate in making sure there are no delays in creation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In July, CISA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and cybersecurity authorities in the United Kingdom and Canada issued a joint warning accusing Russian intelligence services of targeting COVID-19 research and vaccine development facilities with cyber attacks.  Weeks before that warning, Bryan Ware, CISA’s Assistant Director for Cybersecurity, told MeriTalk in a CIO Crossroads interview about the agency’s massive effort to focus on health-sector cyber threats and protect the pharmaceutical, hospital, and public health sectors from malicious actors.

Corman spoke at this week’s event about the urgency of a “whole of community” approach to making sure that COVID-19 vaccine work is not interrupted by attackers.

The consequences of any delay in delivering vaccines, he said, “could be devastating . . . any delay – accidental or otherwise – is unacceptable.”

For example, a one-month delay in distribution of vaccines could equate to five million more people getting sick with the virus, he said. Beyond sickness and deaths directly related to the virus, Corman warned that economic fallout from the vaccine delays could cause additional deaths.

He made a plea for “any allies” to help in the fight, and said, “I have to find hope and solace that there are willing teams” across the Federal government that can work together “on a level that we never have before.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.