Tags: Cybersecurity | Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | United Nations | pandemic | disease | wannacry

Hospitals, Other Health Infrastructure Targets for Hackers

healthcare data and privacy


By Saturday, 30 May 2020 01:54 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The world got a sneak preview of the havoc that could be caused globally at the hands of state-sponsored hackers during 2017’s WannaCry outbreak.

That attack, which affected around 200,000 computers in approximately 150 countries globally, displayed the ease with which ransomware could cause widespread disruptions and damage to infrastructure and businesses.

One sector that was affected provided a preview of perhaps the worst-case scenario imaginable when considering the possible damages and loss of human life that could be associated with a hacking attack.

WannaCry cost the UK’s National Health Service almost £100 million and caused the cancellation of over 19,000 appointments, according to the UK’s Department of Health.

Although the NHS wasn't specifically targeted during the attack, a significant number of hospitals and general practice surgeries fell victim to the outbreak, including one third of NHS hospitals and around eight percent of general practices.

The possible dangers associated with another large-scale cyber-attack against a country’s hospital system, particularly one specifically intended to cripple said system during a pandemic similar to the one the world is currently facing, cannot be overstated.

Sadly, this scenario has already progressed from a figment of the imagination to stone cold reality, as the U.S. and UK issued a joint advisory in early May warning of cyberattacks against entities tasked with aiding in the war against the coronavirus, including healthcare providers, pharmaceutical laboratories, medical research organizations, and others.

The advisory from the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), along with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), says, "The pandemic has likely raised additional requirements for APT actors to gather information related to COVID-19.For example, actors may seek to obtain intelligence on national and international healthcare policy or acquire sensitive data on COVID-19 related research." 

The Advanced Persistent Threats or APTs referred to in the advisory are threat actors most often sponsored by nation-states aiming for political or economic gains via hacking.

APTs generally engage in theft or spying in the national defense, legal and financial services, telecommunication, healthcare, and manufacturing industry, among others.

Unfortunately, this is not just a problem that America faces, as news broke in mid-May that Romania's Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) had arrested members of a hacker group that was preparing to launch ransomware attacks on Romanian hospitals.

DIICOT alleges that the hackers intended to send phishing emails with information related to COVID-19 to hospitals, looking to "infect computers, encrypt files, and disrupt hospital activity."

According to Romanian media outlets that cited DIICOT sources, the hacking group was carrying out the attacks in protest against Romania’s COVID-19 quarantine lockdowns.

Hackers with ties to Iran and others have also attempted to penetrate the systems of the World Health Organization, while attackers linked to Vietnam targeted the Chinese government over its initial handling of the Coronavirus outbreak.

According to reports, Coronavirus drugmaker Gilead was also targeted by Iranian hackers as a phony email credentials page that was designed to steal passwords was sent in April to a top executive involved in legal and corporate affairs for the company.

If a situation similar to what the Romanian hackers intended, or like the UK faced previously as a result of WannaCry occurred, the effects in a highly populated area like New York City, which has remained the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in America, would be devastating.

If there were to be a significant second surge in new COVID-19 cases on top of a hospital disruption, then we would be discussing a catastrophic outcome.

As a result of the spikes in this kind of dangerous activity, some private organizations have taken note. In May the Red Cross issued a letter to governments globally entitled, "A Call to All Governments: Work Together Now to Stop Cyberattacks on the Healthcare Sector."

The letter implores in part, "We call on the world’s governments to take immediate and decisive action to stop all cyberattacks on hospitals, healthcare and medical research facilities, as well as on medical personnel and international public health organizations. To this end, governments should work together, including at the United Nations, to reaffirm and recommit to international rules that prohibit such actions."

The coronavirus pandemic remains a global problem requiring a global solution.

Although it's in dispute how the disease-causing virus originated, the associated issues related to the digital "viruses" that have accompanied the outbreak, seem to pop up everywhere.

Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer and Editorial Director for Reactionary Times. He has been a regular contributor to Newsmax TV and columnist for Newsmax.com since 2016. His writing, which is concentrated on politics, cybersecurity and sports, has also been published by websites including The Hill, The Washington Times, LifeZette, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun and PJ Media and many others. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The possible dangers associated with another large-scale cyber-attack against a country’s hospital system, particularly one specifically intended to cripple said system during a pandemic similar to the one the world is currently facing, cannot be overstated.
pandemic, disease, wannacry, ransomware
Saturday, 30 May 2020 01:54 PM
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