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Covid-19: Pandemic increases cybersecurity, disinformation risks

The risk of cyber-attacks against government targets, as well as disinformation campaigns, is on the rise during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the requirement for increased work-from-home (WfH) arrangements creating increased demand on telecommunication networks and healthcare information systems increase their data throughput.

French technology firm Thales announced on 26 March that the company’s Cyber Threat Intelligence team had identified increased activity through Trojan viruses and ransomware in Android Covid-19 tracking apps, and large-scale spam campaigns, with the risk of large-scale remote working also helping to drive cybersecurity risks through the use of personal devices for work. The company also claimed that their investigations had identified actors from China, Pakistan, North Korea, and Russia as being behind attempted breaches, by both state-sponsored groups and criminals, with motivations including financial gain and espionage.

The firm added that “hackers are using the pandemic as an opportunity to carry out targeted cyberattacks,” with the pattern of malicious activity matching the spread of Covid-19 with major attacks reported first in Asia, then in Central, Eastern, and Western Europe.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an environment where there is an increased risk of a data breach. (BeeBright/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an environment where there is an increased risk of a data breach. (BeeBright/Getty Images)

A sustained cyber-attack on the University Hospital of Brno on 12 and 13 March caused the facility to shut down its entire IT network, with IT news site ZDNet reporting that all surgeries were subsequently suspended. The hospital, which is a Covid-19 testing centre for the Czech Republic, is still unable to use email as of 1 April. Following the incident, the Czech Republic’s National Cyber Security Centre (Národní úřad pro kybernetickou a informační bezpečnost, NÚKIB) ordered healthcare providers to increase their cyber security measures.

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