Cyber professionals collaborate to combat further covid-19 attacks

Article written by Andy Turton, Director of X4 Technology.

Cyber criminals have been capitalising on the coronavirus pandemic chaos. As healthcare professionals continue to protect the nation and most of the public remain working remotely, malicious hackers have been preying on the fear and unfamiliarity of present circumstances to carry out cyber-attacks targeting the healthcare system and public.

Earlier in March, the number of coronavirus themed attacks spiked significantly and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre released a warning statement to advise of the increase and state they would be automatically discovering and removing malicious sites from the web.

Brno University hospital in Czech Republic was attacked by cyber criminals and forced to shut down its entire IT network and postpone urgent surgical interventions as a result. Another cyberattack saw 2,500 infections of two strains of malware sent in emails, which was one of the “biggest coronavirus themed malware campaign we have registered so far” according to a cybersecurity researcher at ESET. All while the number of coronavirus cases continued to increase.

In April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had 450 active email addresses and passwords leaked online along with others, belonging to professionals working on the coronavirus response. Fortunately, the data shared was not recent and only impacted an older system users by current and retired staff. Since the attack, the WHO are migrating affected systems to a more secure authentication system and educating staff on cybersecurity risks.

Not only has the healthcare sector been targeted, cyber criminals have also targeted the public by impersonating the WHO in emails to channel donations to a false fund. The WHO have had more than five times the number of cyberattacks, than in the same period last year.

Now, more so then ever, is a challenging time for cyber security professionals as they work to prevent further threats. Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET said “Cyber criminals show no ethical boundaries and will continue to attack wherever there could be a vulnerability” and Mikko Hypponen, Chief research officer at F-Secure says that cyber professionals are having to work even harder to ensure hospitals and medical organisations are not further “jeopardised by computer attacks”.

In a response to the recent spur of attacks, Lisa Forte at Red Goat Cyber Security, Daniel Card at PwnDefend and Radoslaw Gnat at pharmceutical firm GSK set up “Cyber Volunteers 19 Group”. The group was established to “create a community of skilled cyber professionals willing to volunteer their valuable time to organisations on the front line of the fight” said Forte. In the space of a week, the group had more than 3,000 volunteers sign up, showing how cyber professionals have come together to “form a united group”.

Cyber security professionals are showing an increased willingness to “break down traditional bureaucratic and cultural barriers and collaborate with speed and intensity that’s rare” said Joshua Saxe, Chief scientist at Sophos. Collaboration among cyber security professionals is now clearly the key to preventing further attacks on healthcare providers.

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