CORONAVIRUS SETS THE STAGE FOR HACKING MAYHEM
THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS has impacted the global economy, daily life, and human health around the world, changing how people work and interact everyday. But in addition to the pressing threat the virus poses to human health, these rapid changes have also created an environment in which hackers, scammers, and spammers all thrive.
scams started circulating in January, preying on fear and confusion about the virus—and they’ve only proliferated since. Last week, Brno University Hospital in the Czech Republic—a major Covid-19 testing hub— a that disrupted operations and caused surgery postponements. And even sophisticated nation state hackers have been using pandemic-related traps to spread their malware. The conditions are ripe for cyberattacks of all sorts.
More people than ever are , often with fewer security defenses on their home networks than they would have in the office. Even in critical infrastructure and other high-sensitivity environments where it would be , skeleton crews at the office and general distraction can create windows of vulnerability. And in times of stress or distraction, people are more likely to fall for malicious scams and tricks.
“This global crisis is an emergent vulnerability in the broadest sense possible,” say Lukasz Olejnik, an independent cybersecurity researcher and consultant who has been the digital security risks posed by the pandemic. “The current situation poses enough challenges. Any additional undesirable events would just make it more difficult. So one worst case consequence of a cyberattack could be slowing down crisis response, for example in the health care sector.”
That’s exactly what has played out at Brno University Hospital, where the Czech National Cyber Security Center and Czech law enforcement still have not fully restored digital services.
Ransomware are common, because scammers hope that the urgent need to function will push administrators to simply pay the ransom. Such attacks always pose a potential threat to the health and safety of patients, but are especially horrific during a pandemic that is straining the world’s health care systems. On Wednesday, the incident remediation firm Coveware and the malware defense firm Emsisoft free ransomware response services to health care organizations for the duration of the pandemic, warning that a digital attack on a health care provider during this time would have real-world kinetic consequences.
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Author: Lily Hay Newman is a senior writer at WIRED focused on information security, digital privacy, and hacking. She previously worked as a technology reporter at Slate magazine and was the staff writer for Future Tense, a publication and project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. Additionally her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Fast Company, IEEE Spectrum, and Popular Mechanics. She lives in New York City.