After ERT hit by ransomware attack, the trial company kicks out old chief amid delayed COVID-19 work

ransomware
(Nawadoln/GettyImages)

Clinical trial health tech firm eResearchTechnology (ERT) is getting a new CEO in the same week a report by The New York Times said its work on COVID-19 treatments was delayed due to a cyberattack.

The Philadelphia company, which sells software for clinical trials and works on tests, treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, was hit by a so-called ransomware attack that according to the NYT “has slowed some of those trials over the past two weeks.”

The attack had not been reported by the company (and is still not on its site), but according to the NYT report began two weeks ago when “employees discovered that they were locked out of their data by ransomware, an attack that holds victims’ data hostage until they pay to unlock it.”

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The NYT reports that the company took its systems offline that day, called in outside cybersecurity experts and notified the FBI. It follows a string of ransomware attacks over the past few years in which attackers demand money to have a lock they’ve put on a system reopened.

ERT told the newspaper clinical trial patients were never at risk, but customers said the attack “forced trial researchers to track their patients with pen and paper,” which caused minor delays to some of its work with partners on COVID-19.

These include IQVIA, the CRO working on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, and Bristol Myers Squibb, which is working on a rapid test for the virus.

Several days after the story broke, ERT said current CEO and President Jim Corrigan was stepping down, replaced immediately by Joe Eazor, most recently CEO of Conifer Health Solutions and previously leader of both Rackspace and Earthlink.

It’s not clear whether the two events are linked, or whether Corrigan was sacrificed for the attack after news of it surfaced. He will, however, “continue to support the company during a transition period,” according to a statement.

The company does not know who is behind the attack. Drew Bustos, ERT’s vice president of marketing, said: “Nobody feels great about these experiences, but this has been contained.”

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