The drastic spread of the COVID-19 virus has led to a necessity of physical distancing, especially in the overwhelmed field of healthcare. This emerging situation has created opportunity for innovation in technology to assist healthcare providers. While there are strides being made in data management and telehealth, hackers are revealing gaps in cybersecurity by continuous attacks on medical organizations, as well as unsuspecting companies and individuals. The FBI has stated that the number of cyber crime reports has quadrupled when compared to the months prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Bitdefender also reports a 475% increase in cyber criminality in the month of March in comparison to February 2020 due to the pandemic. As technology is redefining the medical field, anti-virus and service management corporations could start redefining cybersecurity. Currently, companies have to be vigilant against the following types of attacks from cyber criminals:
There have been attacks on medical providers' data storage. Hackers have stolen patients' data and then demanded ransom to withhold from posting their personal and health information online. One such incident occurred on March 14, 2020 against Hammersmith Medicines Research, a vaccine test center that was working with the World Health Organization. The hacker group Maze was caught trying to steal patients' information but was, fortunately, caught and the situation was mitigated immediately. However, some data had already been stolen, and the hacker group proceeded to post personal information of thousands of patients when Hammersmith refused to pay the ransom.
There is a ransom campaign virus that uses the fear of corona virus to find its targets. The virus lures medical workers into opening emails with a click-bait title that relates to corona virus. Once it gains access to the user's computer disguised as an attachment, it encrypts their files and extracts data. The latest of these offenders is called "NetWalker".
However, the scams do not stop at emails. Some scammers are sending text messages offering free items or services due to the pandemic if the user clicks on the provided link. As suspected, the link contains malware code to infiltrate the user's phone.
Hackers are not only attacking healthcare providers; they are also pretending to be healthcare providers. While the public is desperate for information, hackers are masquerading as healthcare providers to gain access to user information, even selling counterfeit sanitizing products in a depleting market.
Only the highest level of awareness and vigilance will stem the tide of this exponential influx of cyber crime. As new training and cyber safety precautions are put into place, perhaps the "new normal" of cyber defense will ultimately prove effective during the pandemic and beyond.