Hospitals brace for more cyberattacks as coronavirus cases rise

Hospitals and health care institutions preparing for a fall wave of coronavirus cases are bracing for more cyberattacks after hackers seeking to take advantage of the pandemic launched several successful one this year that severely disrupted patient services.

The attacks have been widespread around the world, hitting health care groups during the worst public health crisis in a century. Experts say the attacks have involved both cyber criminal groups and nation states looking to target COVID-19 research and sow chaos.

“I’ve been describing this as a cyber gold rush, the bad guys of all shapes and sizes recognize that there is an opportunity here,” said Marc Rogers, executive director of cybersecurity at software group Okta who also helps lead the COVID-19 CTI League that tracks cyberattacks against health groups.

The organization is made up of around 1,500 professionals in more than 80 countries from sectors including information technology, telecommunications and law enforcement who have volunteered their time to fight cyberattacks and track threats against health care groups and other critical sectors.

“We see everything from emails that have no payload at all, through to complex new malware that has been specifically compiled to go after that target at that time,” Rogers said.

Hackers have targeted governmental organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as specific hospital chains. Other state-sponsored attacks backed by Russia, China and Iran have gone after groups involved in COVID-19 research.

recent attack on Pennsylvania-based hospital chain Universal Health Services temporarily disabled systems in hundreds of hospitals in the U.S., potentially delaying treatment and possibly exposing the data of millions of customers.