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Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton teamed up with Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and three other senators to urge our intelligence networks to “take all necessary measures” to protect hospitals from attack by cybercriminals, especially through the coronavirus emergency.

We can’t afford a hospital attack now

The bipartisan group sent a letter to both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, calling for the agencies to shield health and research organizations from hack attack. DHS is home to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency while NSA’s Cyber Command “spearheads the military’s online operations.”

The group even suggested going on the offensive if necessary, asking the white-hat keyboard wizards to consider ways to “defend forward.” That’s a polite way of saying “hack the enemy.”

There’s a good reason for all the concern. As coronavirus has the whole world turned upside down, “hackers’ success rates are going up.” Cybersecurity experts warn “the economic turmoil and changing patterns of work,” create opportunity.

‘State-backed groups’ behind the intrusions

The World Health Organization was the victim of an electronic attack and it appears that “state-backed groups” were behind it. Last week, the FBI issued a bulletin alerting that “advanced hackers” were also trying hard to infiltrate “U.S. research institutions involved in working on treatments for the disease.” Another “joint advisory” went out from several government agencies about an increase in North Korea’s cyber offensive.

One thing that’s happening now is a huge concern. Hospitals already pushed past their limits from the flood of Covid-19 cases are getting hammered by scams and cyberprobes too. Ransomware infections are still successfully hitting hospitals, shutting them down hard until they cough up the outrageous ransom.

In March, hackers breached computers at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District hospital in Illinois. For three days, they couldn’t use their computer. They were forced to hand over $300,000 to the criminals, the Pew Charitable Trust reported.

Hospitals always made great targets

Even before the virus pandemic, hospitals were a juicy target. “Hospitals are not necessarily more susceptible to ransomware attacks. However, an attack can have severely detrimental consequences for them, such as the loss of patient records, and treatment delays or cancellations,” malware analyst Michal Salát asserts. That gives them incentive to simply pay up.

The problem is an international one. In the Czech Republic, a university hospital was also shut down and had to refuse patients. Interpol issued a “purple notice” warning police in 194 separate countries, similar to the one put out by DHS, cautioning about a “significant increase” in attacks directly against hospitals.

One of the ways the hackers operate is by posing as someone from a related organization. Miller-Osborn’s security team caught hackers “posing as officials from the World Health Organization.” They were trying to break into computers at a Canadian government health organization and a medical research institution.

The stress and confusion makes attack easier

As explained by security analyst Jen Miller-Osborn, the raids are working so well because of “intense pressure created by the pandemic.” The stress makes “workers more likely to slip up and click a link they shouldn’t.” When people are tired or distracted, “it might short-circuit the logic in their brain that says I shouldn’t click that.”

With more and more workers logging in from home, it makes the threat worse. It’s important to patch every laptop and tablet against the expected threats. Unfamiliar networking tools can be a problem too, especially if they aren’t set up properly.

2 Responses

  1. Ron Hopkins

    I’ll bet anything most of these hackers are Chinese . They are constantly hacking out institutions and taking valuable info while our stupid government sits on their ass watching porn. The larger government gets the more corruption you get: the more money it takes to run it: the less you get back: the more rights you lose: and the more power the clowns in Washington get. In my lifetime I am seeing my country fall. How F-n sad this is. To many sheep and to many American hating communists in my country. We need another Joe McCarthy and another HUAC ( House UnAmerican Committee). Get these communist loving ass$oles out of or government! We are killing ourselves thinking the Republicans are keeping us safe. All they care about is staying in power and corporations. You think They care? Answer me this … when they held both the House and Senate while President Trump is in office how many bills came forward to eradicate any government department? How many were eradicated under George W Bush? They won’t vote to eradicate the department of Education!The one government agency that controls what our children are learning( which is communist propaganda). The left keeps asking for more money for schools which most goes to bureaucrats, more teachers who pay dues to the teachers unions which gives it right back to the Democrats. We pay the left to teach our children to hate America, and to financially keep feeding our enemies! How F-n stupid is that? Nuff said!

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