The CyberPeace Institute and dozens of international leaders and dignitaries on Tuesday collectively urged the world’s governments in an open letter to help put an end to cyberattacks on hospitals and health care institutions that are already under the incredible strain of combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Over the past weeks, we have witnessed attacks that have targeted medical facilities and organizations on the frontlines of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the letter states. “These actions have endangered human lives by impairing the ability of these critical institutions to function, slowing down the distribution of essential supplies and information, and disrupting the delivery of care to patients. With hundreds of thousands of people already perished and millions infected around the world, medical care is more important than ever.”
Consequently, the letter’s signatories are pleading with the world’s governments to “work together, including at the United Nations, to reaffirm and recommit to international rules that prohibit such actions,” while stating firmly that cyberattacks against healthcare organizations are illegal and intolerable. They are also asking nations to “join forces with civil society and the private sector, to ensure that medical facilities are respected and protected, and to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Earlier this month, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned health care, pharmaceutical, and research sector members working on Covid-19 response that China was looking to steal research on coronavirus vaccines and treatments through cyberattacks.
Meanwhile, hospitals and other care providers have been under threat of ransomware attacks that could seriously impair their ability to function. In early May, it was reported that Germany-based Fresenius, a private hospital operate that also provides dialysis services, drugs and medical devices, experienced interruptions across its global operations after being hit with the malicious Snake encryptor.
In a press release detailing the letter, the Geneva-based CyberPeace Institute also referenced the proliferation of disinformation campaigns “aimed at undermining and disrupting wider elements of the response to the pandemic, including testing and vaccine research facilities.”
The letter’s 48 signatories include such heavy hitters as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. Major tech and cybersecurity players are represented by Trend Micro CEO Eva Chen, Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky and Microsoft President Brad Smith.
“We’re in the midst of the most urgent health crisis in modern history, and these attacks threaten all of humanity,” said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and another signatory. “We must take action collectively to ensure this threat is addressed, and already fragile health care systems, particularly in countries affected by war and violence are not put at further risk by cyber operations.”
“As healthcare professionals are protecting us in the real world, it is up to civil society, industry and governments to collectively act for their protection in cyberspace,” added Stéphane Duguin, CEO of the CyberPeace Institute. “In this effort, humanity needs governments to work together by setting the tone and the example, to ensure healthcare is protected, and perpetrators are held accountable.”