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Healthcare system braces for increase in cyberattacks

Apr 20, 2020 The Hill

As hospitals face a surge in patients and critical equipment shortages stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, they are increasingly becoming the target of hackers who see health care facilities as easy prey. 

Ransomware attacks, in which hackers lock up a network and demand payment to return access to these systems, have presented a growing threat to hospitals since January. 

Experts are warning that they expect these attacks to increase and that the threat has captured the attention of top intelligence lawmakers, who warn the outbreak and the ransomware attacks create the perfect storm.

“A major policy focus of mine before the onset of this health emergency was the cybersecurity posture of the health care sector, where we often found major hospital systems ill-equipped to handle ransomware incidents and data breaches,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill in a statement.

“COVID-19 has only made that situation worse, with increased attacks and hospital resources stretched perilously thin,” Warner added.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who expressed concerns following attacks on health agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services last month, told The Hill that he could see the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) having a role to play in protecting hospitals from cyberattacks.