Hackers targeting healthcare sector during pandemic
May 13, 2020
TORONTO – There has been a surge in hacking, phishing and other illicit online activities during the recent pandemic, security experts say. Moreover, the healthcare providers have been special targets, as cybercriminals take advantage of stretched healthcare resources. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which manages the .ca domain, has seen a 39-per-cent increase in cyberthreats against healthcare clients using its network security platform over the past 30 days.
Hackers are integrating COVID-19 themes into their attacks, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-cybersecurity-firms-are-combatting-an-increase-in-attacks/). For instance, cybercriminals engaged in phishing – a technique involving mass e-mails that entice recipients to click on malicious attachments or links – have increasingly been posing as public-health agencies, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.
New Brunswick-based Beauceron Security has witnessed a 250-per-cent to 350-per-cent spike in attempted ransomware attacks, which occur when a hacker seizes a victim’s data and demands a ransom in exchange for releasing it, relating to the pandemic in recent weeks.
“Chaos is a perfect veil for cybercriminals,” said Mark Sangster, vice-president and industry security strategist at eSentire Inc., a cybersecurity firm headquartered in Waterloo, Ont. “That smoke in the battlefield really hides what they’re up to. They look for things like this.”
While many companies have employed security measures, such as virtual private networks and identity verification, for their remote workers, experts say most have forgotten about a major vulnerability – an employee’s home Wi-Fi connection. Many people’s Wi-Fi passwords are easy to guess, and some are still using default administrator passwords for their home networks that can quickly be searched through Google or other engines, Mr. Tobok said. Gaining access this way – through someone’s home internet network – renders most corporate security measures useless.
In addition to technical vulnerabilities, there are human ones as well. The health crisis has put people into a heightened state of anxiety, making them more susceptible to phishing attempts and other types of attacks.
“Imagine you get a message that says, ‘You’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Click here to find out more,’” CIRA spokesperson Spencer Callaghan says, “The hackers are actually taking advantage of the heightened COVID-19 anxiety.”
CIRA has begun offering free malware protection, called CIRA Canadian Shield, in response, Mr. Callaghan added.
Healthcare institutions are particularly vulnerable because doctors and nurses working long hours under stressful conditions are less likely to validate an e-mail before clicking a link. Hospitals also tend to pay ransoms if all their patient files are seized by malicious actors, Mr. Sangster at eSentire says.