Healthcare Halt Ends Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

Honor Among Thieves

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cyber hackers gave the impression that healthcare facilities would be “off limits.” They called a ceasefire of sorts on an already stressed out medical system. Unfortunately, that appears to be over.

The halt was never widely publicized nor was it confirmed. However, hospital systems in the US saw very little of the surge in ransomware cases that have plagued the US since the onset of the pandemic. While cases quadrupled, the medical field was left mostly untouched with only a few exceptions.

Renewed Threat

According to the Associated Press, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services have issued a joint warning. They believe a real and credible threat is looming. This could spell trouble for a taxed healthcare system as COVID-19 cases across the country continue to rise.

The fear is that an already strained healthcare system could see disastrous results if hit while at capacity. While this might be conjecture, the assault has already begun across seas. Pfizer-BioNTech, the makers of the COVID-19 vaccine currently being distributed, announced that documents had been “unlawfully accessed.”

Additionally, IBM researchers released information that cybercriminals were trying to hack the cold storage being used to transport the vaccine. While the hackers are unknown, researchers note that a nation state is the likely culprit.

Lax Security

While the private sector is beginning to understand the importance of beefing up security, the health sector is still woefully behind. Merged healthcare systems are a tantalizing prize for hackers. With a wealth of patient information that carries hefty monetary value, hospitals are modern day treasure chests for cyber thieves.

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The value lies in the threat of releasing information. Now that cybercriminals can download the contents of the servers, they’ve won back the advantage previously held by those with good back-ups. Meanwhile, administrators have yet to fortify the security of those mega systems.

There’s clear cut evidence that ransomware attacks negatively impact the health of patients. A German woman died after having to be rerouted for care due to the local hospital’s battles with ransomware. Even with this information, hospitals are still lacking in security.

What’s To Be Done

Unfortunately, without increases to cybersecurity for already strained medical facilities, the likelihood of an attack increases. It’s up to administrators to take care of protecting data and computer systems to allow staff to do their work. Lives literally depend on it.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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