Hackers Attack US Health Agency System To Slow Coronavirus Response

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It has been revealed that hackers have targetted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to sow chaos as the department struggles to respond to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Bloomberg is reporting that the department “suffered a cyber attack on its computer system, part of what people familiar with the incident called a campaign of disruption and disinformation that was aimed at undermining the response to the coronavirus pandemic and may have been the work of a foreign actor.”

John Ullyot, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services has said that “we are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks, and the Federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly.”

“HHS and federal government cybersecurity professionals are continuously monitoring and taking appropriate actions to secure our federal networks… HHS and federal networks are functioning normally at this time,” he said.

“We had no penetration into our networks, we had no degradation of the functioning of our networks,” said Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary told the media at a press briefing in the White House.

The report says that hackers attempted to overload the HHS servers with millions of computer-driven site visits, citing a source who requested anonymity, considering it’s an extremely sensitive incident. It’s unsure what the end-goal of the hackers is, but the disruption campaign has been somewhat effective at slowing down the agency’s response-ability and spreading misinformation in the community surrounding the virus and the department’s response plans.

A Health and Human Services spokeswoman said in a statement that the department had “put extra protections in place,” as it expands its reach to curb the rising number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

“On Sunday, we became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyberinfrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter,” Caitlin Oakley said. “We are coordinating with federal law enforcement and remain vigilant and focused on ensuring the integrity of our IT infrastructure.”

Other government departments have also felt the pinch from cybercriminals, with the National Security Council issuing a tweet stating that “text message rumors of a national quarantine are fake. There is no national lockdown. [The] CDC has and will continue to post the latest guidance,” it wrote.

Cybersecurity specialist at ESET, Jake Moore said that “suffering a cyber-attack in the midst of a pandemic adds salt to the wound when organisations are already at full stretch… we all need to be more vigilant at the moment and take even more caution when communicating remotely,” he added.

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