HHS hit by cyberattack amid coronavirus outbreak

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was attacked by hackers over the weekend as the agency worked to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The cyberattack, first reported by Bloomberg News, involved hackers accessing HHS’s systems on Sunday night. According to Bloomberg, they were not able to steal anything, and the goal was to slow down systems.

HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley told The Hill in a statement that the agency was “fully operational” and investigating the cybersecurity incident.

“HHS has an IT infrastructure with risk-based security controls continuously monitored in order to detect and address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities,” Oakley said. “On Sunday, we became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter.”

She noted that “early on while preparing and responding to COVID-19, HHS put extra protections in place. We are coordinating with federal law enforcement and remain vigilant and focused on ensuring the integrity of our IT infrastructure.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar played down the hacking incident during a press conference later on Monday.

“We have extremely strong barriers, we had no penetration into our networks, no degradation of the functioning of our networks, we had no limitation on the ability or capacity of our people to telework, we’ve taken very strong defensive actions,” Azar told reporters at the White House.