The threat of cyberattacks on healthcare institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Orange Cyberdefense Epidemiology Lab recently published a cybersecurity whitepaper warning that cybercriminals could make the Coronavirus crisis worse with malware attacks on health institutions.

To any right-minded person, the thought of exploiting one of the worst health crises the world has faced in modern times is, quite frankly, unthinkable. Sadly, however, there are those whose minds immediately turn to ways of cashing on crises. This blog isn’t just about people buying up an entire stock of hand sanitizer and flogging it online at a big mark up, this is far worse. This article is about criminals who seek to profit from the pandemic by mounting cyberattacks on health institutions when they need it least, when they are already under extreme pressure just trying to keep their patients alive.

Some hackers have ethics, it seems, with several ransomware groups having publicly declared they will not attack healthcare systems. But this does not mean everyone in healthcare IT can relax, because other cybercriminals are determined to exploit the situation for profit.

According to a whitepaper just released by Orange Cyberdefense, this has already happened: computer systems at the University Hospital Brno in Czech Republic were shut down on March 14, 2020 because of a cyberattack. The disruption to the hospital’s computer system severely hampered their ability to carry on with testing of patients for Coronavirus.

There are other examples of malware attacks on healthcare IT. In 2017, a number of UK healthcare facilities fell victim to a ransomware attack. In 2018, at least two U.S. hospitals were hit by SamSam, and in 2019, Ryuk ransomware hit hospitals without mercy.

With healthcare providers likely to be under intense pressure, and with heartless cybercriminals out to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now imperative that all precautions are taken without delay to secure healthcare data and IT.

Read the Orange Cyberdefense whitepaper, The threat of cyberattacks on healthcare establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic, to find out more.

Glenn Le Santo
Glenn Le Santo

Editor in Chief, International, at Orange Business. I'm in charge of our International website and the English language blogs at Orange Business. In my spare time I'm literally captain of my own ship, spending my time on the wonderful rivers and canals of England.