Hackers Are Actively Attacking Healthcare Institutions Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak

Hackers Attack Healthcare Organizations Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that cyberattacks are launched by fellow human beings, doubly more so when you read about criminals that are hacking into hospitals' IT systems in the middle of a global pandemic. Unfortunately, although the world is faced with what has been described as an unprecedented threat to the population's health, some cybercriminals seem to think that there's nothing wrong with disrupting the work of the people that take care of the physical wellbeing of thousands.

A Czech hospital gets hit by a cyberattack

Brno is the second biggest city in the Czech Republic, and the Brno University Hospital is the biggest hospital in it. Last week, Peter Gramantik, a security researcher at Sucuri, was staying at the hospital, and he later gave ZDNet a first-hand account of how a cyberattack threatened to throw the whole healthcare institution into chaos.

In the early hours of last Friday morning, the hospital's public announcement system told the staff to power down their computers immediately. The message was repeated every thirty minutes, and a few hours later, the same public announcement system informed everybody that all operations had been canceled. Local media coverage later revealed that cybercriminals had broken into the hospital's IT systems.

The exact nature of the attack remains unknown for now, though the publicly available evidence seems to point to a ransomware infection. It must be said that it could have been much worse. Brno University Hospital was forced to redirect a few emergency cases to other healthcare centers, and it did postpone some planned surgical procedures. Despite this, quite a few life-saving operations were conducted during the day, and medical examinations were not severely disrupted.

The attack affected COVID-19 tests

People's health is of utmost importance in case of a cyberattack on a healthcare institution, and in this particular case, it appears that it was not put under any immediate threat. Nevertheless, we mustn't ignore the fact that with this attack, the cybercriminals hit the people who are working day and night to get us through the current coronavirus pandemic.

Brno University Hospital is one of Czech Republic's biggest COVID-19 testing centers, and it's located very near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. It processes a large number of tests for the new virus, and the treatment of many people depends on the work of its staff and the computer systems they operate. Thanks to the cybercriminals' actions, this work was disrupted, and although the immediate consequences weren't that huge in this particular instance, the incident proves just how damaging these attacks could be.

It's one thing to take advantage of the coronavirus panic to spread misinformation or malware. Some might even argue that this is normal. Even cybercriminals have to draw the line somewhere, however, and they should probably think carefully about where it needs to be, especially now, when the world is faced with such an enormous challenge.

March 19, 2020

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