A Philadelphia tech company which provides the software currently used in COVID-19 vaccine trials has suffered a ransomware attack, the CEO has confirmed.
The global firm, eResearchTechnology, first came under attack two weeks ago, on September 20.
Employees discovered that they were locked out of their data by ransomware, The New York Times reported - an attack that holds victims' data hostage until they pay to unlock it.
ERT said clinical trial patients were never at risk, but customers said the attack forced trial researchers to track their patients with pen and paper.
Several of ERT's clients were hit - among them IQVIA, the contract research organization helping manage AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine trial, and Bristol Myers Squibb, the drugmaker leading a consortium of companies to develop a quick test for the virus.
ERT has its global headquarters in Philadelphia and has been under attack since Sept 20
ERT provides the software used by firms including AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb
Research into a vaccine is feared to be delayed following the ransomware attack
ERT has not said how many clinical trials were affected, but its software is used in drug trials across Europe, Asia and North America.
ERT's software was used in three-quarters of trials that led to drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration last year, according to its website.
Drew Bustos, ERT's vice president of marketing, said the company took its systems offline on September 20 and asked cybersecurity experts to help, and notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Drew Bustos, ERT's vice president of marketing, said the attack had been 'contained' and the FBI notified
'Nobody feels great about these experiences, but this has been contained,' he said.