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March 19, 2020

The Coronavirus Hacking Threat is Greater than Imagined

Hackers typically prey on unsuspecting users by targeting messages to them which prey on their fear or greed. These two emotions are said to be the primary motivators for human behavior.

For this reason, coronavirus has presented a tremendous opportunity for hackers to trick users into clicking on links and infecting their machines. Moreover, as workers are now working from home in great numbers, they are more vulnerable than ever. In order to assist you, our most recent article is titled 5 tips on how to ensure your company can safely work with employees at home.

A short whiile ago, Brno University Hospital in the Czech Republic—a major Covid-19 testing hub—suffered a ransomware attack that disrupted operations and caused surgery postponements.

Hackers – especially those planting ransomware have learned that targeting critical systems like city governments or medical facilities and hospitals means they are more likely to get paid. In addition, these systems are often less protected than financial institutions which also are considered critical.

Earlier this month – we presented 10 hospital and healthcare cybersecurity best practices in our effort to help you stay protected.

How bad is the current hacking situation?

Zscaler, a cybersecurity firm, said hacking threats on systems it monitors have increased 15% a month since the beginning of the year, and so far in March they've jumped 20%. The company can see what sort of attacks come through on the networks of its business customers. A growing category of hacks lure victims with the promise of information or protection from COVID-19.

In addition, software appearing to provide information about the coronavirus, while actually delivering malicious software, is another problem. “Coronavirus map” software that appears to track the global pandemic, for example, also hides the password-stealing malware AZORult, cybersecurity firm Reason Security said. The Nocturnus report also identified a mobile app that promises “Ways to Get Rid of Coronavirus,” which, in fact, delivers malware that steals banking information.

Perhaps the scariest example of how hackers have successfully targeted critical systems was the hack of the US Health Department hack a few days ago.

According to Bloomberg, the cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services consisted of multiple incidents but is not believed to have resulted in the theft of any data. 

Bloomberg's senior White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs said the multi-pronged assault on the health department included a DoS attack.

Writing on Twitter, Jacobs stated: "The hack yesterday involved overloading the HHS servers with millions of hits over several hours, sources tell me."

Reporting on the intrusion earlier today, Bloomberg said Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other Trump administration officials are aware of the incident.

No definitive proof has been found as to who perpetrated the multi-hack. Thoughts on where the attack may have originated are so far purely speculative. 

Commenting on the attack, Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, said: “Suffering a cyber-attack in the midst of a pandemic adds salt to the wound when organizations are already at full stretch. 

What we must remember is hackers have no mercy – they already use extortion and theft to make money. Doing so in the midst of a pandemic is not an impediment – it actually seems to encourage them.

Please consult a top-rated IT services or cybersecurity firm such as Apex Technology Services to learn how to better protect your systems. Users need training, systems need checking and the time to do this is now – before the hackers find the weaknesses and exploit them.

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