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Interpol warns hospitals of Covid-19 cyber threats


Mark Say Managing Editor

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International police organisation Interpol has warned hospitals worldwide of the threat of cyber attacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

It has issued a Purple Notice to police forces in its 194 member countries after its cyber crime threat response team at its Cyber Fusion Centre in Singapore detected a significant number of attempted ransomware attacks against organisations involved in the response to the virus, notably hospital and medical services.

The organisation said the team is monitoring all cyber threats related to Covid-19, working closely with partners in the cyber security industry to gather information and provide support to organisations targeted by ransomware.

It is also assisting police with investigations into relevant cases.

Interpol’s secretary general Jürgen Stock said: “As hospitals and medical organizations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the wellbeing of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients.”

“Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, it could directly lead to deaths. Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure our vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable.”

The organisation is also collecting a list of suspicious internet domains related to Covid-19 for evaluation and will work with the relevant countries to take action.

It said that the ransomware has appeared to spread largely through emails, often falsely claiming to contain advice about the coronavirus from a government agency and encouraging the recipient to click on an infected link or attachment.

Among the steps it recommended to hospitals and others are: only open emails or download software form trusted sources; do not click on links or open attachments in unexpected emails; secure email systems to protect from infected spam; and ensure the latest anti-virus software is installed on all systems and mobile devices and kept running constantly.

Image from iStock, Dra Schwartz

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