Free IR for cyber security attacks aimed at hospitals

Dimension Data, in conjunction with parent company NTT, offers free incident response (IR) for cyber security attacks aimed at hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic.

Johannesburg, 07 May 2020
Read time 3min 30sec

There has been a significant increase in the frequency and maliciousness of cyber attacks in the wake of COVID-19 as hackers seek to exploit coronavirus-related panic.

Hospitals, in particular, have experienced a series of threats. At a time when hospitals are focused on battling the virus, cyber criminals are exploiting the pandemic by targeting these very institutions that are trying to save lives. Society’s most critical providers are now, sadly, the most vulnerable.

According to Tony Walt, Dimension Data's managing executive, cyber criminals focus their energies on where they find chaos. He adds that the objective is to cause more pain and chaos to extract ransoms. "These hospitals are having to adapt to a new way of working, which could potentially expose vulnerabilities in the security posture, leaving an opportunity for threat actors to take advantage."

Cyber attacks amid a pandemic

In response to the rise in attacks launched by cyber criminals seeking to exploit panic caused by the pandemic, Dimension Data, in conjunction with parent company NTT, will provide private and government hospitals battling the coronavirus with free incident response (IR) support for cyber security attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, if an incident occurs.

This free service will be available for 60 days, starting 20 April 2020. Once a client pre-qualifies and signs a scope of work, they will receive up to 40 hours of remediation service free of charge.

“Our single objective is to ensure that the frontline heroes in this pandemic are not distracted in any way by cyber security related issues for them to help save lives,” says Walt. “Our hospitals treating COVID-19 patients should not be consumed with cyber security risks at the expense of critical patient care. We are therefore allocating our global resources to help them.”

Ransomware, and encrypting applications and files until a ransom is paid, has been the main threat, along with attempts to steal financial information and patient medical records. DDOS attacks, where an attacker floods your system with so much data that everyday tasks are impossibly slow, has also been a common tactic used.

“Right now, we’re seeing a rise in very targeted phishing campaigns. Cyber attackers are increasing their efforts to infect and compromise hospital networks and IT systems, using ransomware and malware. For example, a hospital staff member may be sent an e-mail by someone pretending to be legitimate. The imposter pretends they’re from the Department of Health offering new information about personal protective equipment or offering in-demand items like hand sanitisers and coronavirus test kits. People are so desperate for information about COVID-19, they’re more likely to engage with this kind of content, even if the message seems suspicious. This can result in malware being introduced and ultimately a ransomware demand,” explains Walt.

“Depending on the nature of the attack, if a hospital or healthcare centre phones us, we’ll start by diagnosing the problem. This means looking at their network logs and system impacts, identifying the most urgent and critical incidents first and then proceed with advanced security measures to help us detect any malicious content. Next, we quarantine suspicious files, stop the attack, and help hospitals restore services. We will also offer recommendations to avoid future system compromises. All of this can be managed remotely.”

Dimension Data is committed to playing its part in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and is offering this free service for a specific scope of work, which will be facilitated remotely.

“Our role is to get the frontline, doctors and nurses as well as all supporting functions, trying to work in a compromised hospital back to saving lives as quickly as possible,” says Walt.

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