#Privacy: Forensic expert underlines societal threat posed by cyber-criminals

A boss at UK forensic services provider, Eurofins, has spoken out about the major danger that cyber-criminals present to Britain and beyond.

Eurofins, which is Britain’s foremost provider of forensic services suffered a cyber-attack itself in the summer of 2019, when the firm’s computer systems were hit by a ransomware virus.

The bug forced a suspension of lab work for a period of seven weeks, while subsequent police investigations and trials had to be set back also.

Speaking to the BBC news website in the aftermath of the intrusion, Eurofins’ commercial director in four countries, Mark Pearse, underlined how other companies are just as vulnerable.

“It’s a threat to society,” Mr Pearse said.

“There is no sector that’s immune to this. We’ve got the transport sector, the energy sector, the health sector, other public organisations, the criminal justice system.

“We’re all vulnerable,” he added.

The Eurofins cyber-attack hit the company’s IT systems in each of the 47 countries in which the firm has a presence. After being notified of the incident prior to catching a flight out of the UK, Mr Pearse was forced to spend all day on the phone trying to address the emergency situation.

Mr Pearse explained:

“The labs are quite dependent on IT and everything these days is either controlled by IT, all the data is stored on servers, and so the processes quickly came to a grinding halt.”

Major damage was inflicted on the company’s forensic science division in Britain, where Eurofins has seven sites and 60% of the market. Following consultation with police and senior prosecutors, bosses of Eurofins decided to stop receiving blood samples, DNA and other forensic evidence from crime scenes.

Mr Pearse said:

“It has huge implications,” said Mr Pearse, a molecular cell biologist who used to work for the Metropolitan Police and the state-run Forensic Science Service.

“We’re the biggest private provider so that was quite a decision to make. We do many hundreds, many thousands of cases and samples…So very quickly the job in hand was partly to investigate the cyber-incident, and the consequences from an IT perspective… and to provide continuity of service.”

“The National Crime Agency is now taking an international lead in the criminal investigation into this crime on Eurofins group and that investigation is ongoing and will probably be ongoing for some months and therefore it’s subject to those usual constraints,” Mr Pearse continued.


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