HHS computer hack leads to false information in response to coronavirus pandemic

HHS computer hack leads to false information in response to coronavirus pandemic

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 16, 2020
Cyber Security Health IT
An unknown entity attacked the HHS computer system Sunday night amid the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department computer system was hit by a cyberattack Sunday night.

The attack, which comes as the nation and the world grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, appears to have been an attempt to slow down the agency’s systems — though it failed to do so in a meaningful way — and spread false information, including word of a national lockdown, reported Bloomberg.

“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown,” tweeted the National Security Council just before midnight. “@CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19.”

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The hack consisted of multiple incidents to overload the HHS servers with millions of hits over several hours. No data appears to have been stolen from the system, administration officials told Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity.

Confirmation on the attacker’s identity has yet to be made. Administrative officials assume it to be a “hostile foreign actor,” but have no definitive proof at this time.

Cyberattacks have grown in number and sophistication in the last couple of years, compromising a range of computer systems, software programs and records in healthcare and other industries. A recent survey found that healthcare providers experienced triple the number of breaches to their records in 2019 than they did in 2018.

In addition, ransomware, a common form of cyberattack, has cost healthcare systems in the U.S. more than $157 million over the last five years.

Paul Nakasone, head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, is investigating the attacks on the HHS computer system, according to Bloomberg.

The White House did not respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment but did tweet, “Official, up-to-date guidance on #COVID19 is available from @CDCgov and at http://coronavirus.gov. Rumors of a national lockdown or national quarantine recently shared via text message are FAKE.”

The NSC and HHS also did not respond to their requests.

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