Health Care Industry Targeted by Increased Cyberattacks During Pandemic

The health care industry is facing an increase in cybercrime related to the pandemic, according to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Criminal Division Chief Brian Benczkowski, who is stepping down in early July.

“We’ve seen cyberattacks on health care, pharmaceutical, and research organizations in order to steal valuable research on coronavirus vaccines and treatments,” said Mr. Benczkowski.

In March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suffered a DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attack on its servers, overloading the agency’s systems with millions of hits to cause a slowdown. Health care systems nationwide have reported similar cyberattacks, such as the Care New England hospital group in Rhode Island, which faced several days of network disruption after an attack in June. The World Health Organization (WHO) also reported a fivefold increase in cyberattacks in April.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an alert to organizations working on COVID-19 research in May, warning that foreign actors are targeting these entities.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has made additional efforts to target other pandemic-related fraud, charging companies over misleading claims about available COVID-19 treatments or access to personal protective equipment for purchase.

Sources: CISA Public Service Announcement, May 13, 2020; The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2020; Bloomberg, March 16, 2020; Becker’s Hospital Review, June 16, 2020; World Health Organization news release, April 23, 2020.