While countries are busy dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, they are targeted by hackers wishing to benefit from the crisis. Now, criminals aim at the vital and the most vulnerable industry as of now - healthcare.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and medical research firms who are busy working on the coronavirus vaccines have been suffering the increased number of attacks these days. According to Reuters, the WHO registered a significant hike in the number of hacks in recent weeks, sometimes up to 2,000 attacks in a single day, while Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), a British firm working on Ebola vaccine reported a series of severe attacks by hacking group Maze.
The malware usually targets clinical systems of hospitals and other healthcare institutions, capturing their data and demanding a ransom in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in exchange for releasing them. Otherwise, hackers threaten to disclose all confidential data of their patients or employees. The very scheme was used to attack the HMR.
However, not only medical institutions suffer from hackers’ attacks and fraudulent schemes. There has been an increasing number of phishing emails containing logos, wording, and information of reputable organizations such as the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO. Such emails prompt readers to click links provided to be safe from the coronavirus or save their friends and loved ones.
As coinidol.com, a world blockchain news outlet has reported, the residents of Great Britain were targeted by a group of scammers sending phishing emails on behalf of National Health Service (NHS) and asking for cryptocurrency donations to aid COVID-19 victims.
There were also schemes involving the name of WHO or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. People were offered to buy the list of infected people in their neighbourhood or get a tax return as aid during the quarantine. But as a result, many trustful users have lost their money. The overall loss caused by coronavirus-related fraudulent schemes has totalled to almost £1,000 000.
In order to counter the acts of the hackers, several entities in the cybersecurity sector have joined forces and created the association of Cybersecurity Volunteers 19 (CV-19) aimed at protection of the healthcare industry from ransomware. As of now, it involves more than 3,000 volunteers who are skilled professionals of cybersecurity and support companies and organizations fighting the coronavirus.
The increase of scams and attacks have also triggered Action Fraud, a UK fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, to collaborate with London police on spreading the awareness about various schemes and warning people against taking part in them.
Nevertheless, while companies dealing with the coronavirus crisis, suppressing ransomware could be extremely problematic. Additionally, it is challenging to tell apart legitimate information from malicious ones due to the variation in the IT capabilities of most people.
Although many people are busy keeping safe from the COVID-19 virus, we need to pay special attention to computer viruses as well—the two should be fought concurrently.