As hospitals around the world struggle to manage the influx of COVID-19 patients, cybercriminals are threatening to exploit the crisis and hold them for ransom, according to an Interpol warning.
The agency has launched a global alert to healthcare organizations regarding ransomware attacks, in which criminals block organizations from their own computer systems until a ransom is paid.
It follows a rare warning from one of the UK’s intelligence agencies on criminals using the coronavirus epidemic to launch online attacks.
This week, NHS Digital released tips for healthcare providers COVID-19 Related cyber activity.
He advised them on how to spot potential attempts by hackers to trick staff by following links to malicious websites, or to open attachments that would allow criminals to gain access to their computer systems.
Interpol’s cybercrime threat response team said it had detected a “significant increase” in these types of attacks, noting an increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organizations around the world.
It has alerted 194 of its member countries and is working with the cybersecurity industry to gather information about the attacks and assist the national police force.
Jurgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary, warned that the attacks could be fatal if they strike while resources are stretched to the limit during the epidemic.
“As hospitals and medical organizations around the world work tirelessly to safeguard the well-being of people with coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who seek to make a profit at the expense of sick patients,” said he declared. said.
“Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the rapid medical response required in these unprecedented times, but could directly lead to death. “
In a statement to Sky News, NHS Digital said: “This is an unprecedented period of stress for the NHS, especially for the cybersecurity and IT teams who continue to work hard in all NHS organizations to secure data and patient systems. , to continue providing patient care safely.
“NHS organizations are ultimately responsible for their own cybersecurity risk, but we are working together to address and address the challenges of cybersecurity.
“We advise organizations to be alert to suspicious email from people they don’t know, to follow our advice on reporting it, and to ensure that virus definitions are updated and security vulnerabilities are fixed. . “
In March Sky News saw a copy of a fraudulent email sent to a number of healthcare facilities claiming to come from each company’s internal IT team.
The e-mail – which has the theme “ALL STAFF: AWARENESS TO CORONA VIRUS” – informs employees that “the institution is currently organizing a seminar for all staff to talk about this deadly virus”, asking them to click a link to register.
The link takes anyone who clicks it to a third-party website disguised as an Outlook web application. Anyone who completes this form ends up giving their details to hackers.
So far, there has never been a cyber attack in the UK that has directly resulted in the death of people. However, the National Cyber Security Center said it was only a matter of time before a so-called Category 1 incident occurred.
There have been 34 Category Two incidents that required high-level involvement among government departments and agencies – including the WannaCry ransomware attack that hit the NHS in 2017.
It was the largest cyberattack ever against the health service and left staff locked on hundreds of NHS computers, resulting in the cancellation of thousands of appointments and some A&E services had to refuse ambulances.
An assessment of Western intelligence agencies has blame for the attack on the feet of a North Korean hacking organization known to researchers as the Lazarus Group.
An investigation by the American authorities succeeded in identify a North Korean man who was part of this group in an indictment accusing him and the alleged accomplices of the cyber extortion attack.
The British NCSC has obtained essential evidence that linked the NHS attack to others already under investigation in the United States.