Interpol warns of ransomware targeting health care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cyber crooks continue attacking health care organizations during the global coronavirus pandemic that has already killed tens of thousands of people, Interpol warns.



The international criminal police organization has issued a warning to health care organizations and others at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak that they could be targets of ransomware attacks.

“As hospitals and medical organizations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the well-being 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,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

According to Interpol, there has been a significant increase in the number of attempted attacks targeting key organizations and infrastructure engaged in the coronavirus response. Health care facilities are essentially held hostage until a ransom is paid. This could have disastrous consequences as affected hospitals would be unable to provide support for those in desperate need of it.

“To support global efforts against this critical danger, INTERPOL has issued a Purple Notice alerting police in all its 194 member countries to the heightened ransomware threat,” Interpol has said.

Interpol’s Cybercrime Threat Response team is actively monitoring cyberthreats related to COVID-19 and are in close communication with private partners in the cybersecurity industry in order to gather information and provide support for ransomware victims.

Targeting medical organizations could lead to death, says Interpol Chief

Interpol’s Chief has warned that carrying out attacks against hospitals and other facilities at the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to not only delayed medical response but also directly contribute to death of patients.

Interpol has said they will provide member countries assistance to ensure healthcare systems can function normally and will help in holding responsible criminals accountable. The international organization will also provide technical support to member countries.

“Additionally, INTERPOL is collecting a list of suspicious Internet domains related to COVID-19 and undertaking further analysis and evaluation, and will work with the relevant countries to take action,” the organization has said.

Ransomware is spread via emails

Ransomware is usually distributed via emails, and it seems that health care organizations are being infected via email as well. According to Interpol, the malicious emails falsely claim to contain information about the coronavirus, and are made to seem like they are sent by a government agency. Recipients are encouraged to open the attachment or to click on a link, which leads to a ransomware infection.

Hospitals and other medical facilities are encouraged to focus on prevention and mitigation efforts in order to stop further attacks. Employees are encouraged to not click on links or open attachments in unsolicited/unexpected emails, only open emails from trusted senders, secure email systems to protect from spam, back up all important files regularly and store them separately from the system, install anti-virus, and use strong passwords.