Cyberattacks against hospitals must stop, says Red Cross

International rules needed to clamp down on hackers who are targeting healthcare – and risking lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ransomware and hospitals: Why cyber criminals are targeting healthcare during coronavirus and how to stop them

Immediate action needs to be taken to stop cyberattacks targeting hospitals and healthcare organisations during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – and governments around the world need to work together to make it happen, says a newly published open letter signed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, former world leaders, cybersecurity executives and others.

The joint statement published by the CyberPeace Institute – an international non-profit with the aim of enhancing stability in cyberspace – has over 40 signatories, including seven Nobel Prize laureates.

"We call on the world's governments to take immediate and decisive action to stop all cyberattacks on hospitals, healthcare and medical research facilities, as well as on medical personnel and international public health organizations," said the statement.

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Hospitals around the world are under additional stress because of COVID-19 and it's something that cyber criminals are looking to exploit; there's been a number of ransomware attacks targeting hospitals and healthcare organisations as cyber attackers attempt to hold vital infrastructure to ransom at a crucial time – and that could be risking lives.

"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.

"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," he said.

The statement calls for governments to work together, alongside civil society and the private sector, to work towards creating international rules that prohibit cyberattacks against healthcare.

"We don't tolerate attacks on health infrastructure in the physical world, and we must not tolerate such attacks in cyberspace – whether in times of peace or in times of conflict. We stand with the International Committee of the Red Cross in support of its call to protect medical services and medical facilities against cyberattacks of any kind," the statement said.

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Representatives of technology and cybersecurity who put their names to the statement include Microsoft President Brad Smith, Trend Micro CEO Eva Chen and Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky.

"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we've been continuously monitoring how cyber criminals have been exploiting the situation," said Kaspersky. "As long as the coronavirus continues to cause serious social concerns, attackers will continue to use it for their own purposes," he added.

In order to help stop cyberattacks against hospital and healthcare, the letter calls for medical facilities to be protected and that those behind campaigns against these organisations should be held accountable.

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