If someone could stop hackers pwning medical systems right now, that would be cool, say Red Cross and friends

The rules of war that protect hospitals should extend into cyberspace


Following the surge of cyber attacks on medical facilities, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and more than 40 other international leaders asked the governments of the world to do more to safeguard critical medical organizations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter published on Tuesday, Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, and other prominent signatories asked the world's government's "to take immediate and decisive action to stop all cyber attacks on hospitals, health care and medical research facilities, as well as on medical personnel and international public health organizations."

In recent weeks, the letter says, there have been cyber attacks on healthcare facilities in the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Thailand, and the US, among others.

Last month, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned about "a growing use of COVID-19-related themes by malicious cyber actors." Also in April, Google reported that its security systems were catching "18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages."

And the World Health Organization said it had seen an uptick in online attacks on its staff and the general public.

PCR machine in a lab

Surprise surprise! Hostile states are hacking coronavirus vaccine research, warn UK and USA intelligence

READ MORE

However, the call to have governments cooperate to fight attacks on healthcare organizations may not go so well if, as US authorities have claimed, governments are behind some of the hacking. Earlier this month, the FBI and CISA said they are investigating attempts to compromise US organizations conducting COVID-19 research to steal research data.

Nonetheless, the ICRC argues that the world has agreed to spare healthcare facilities from attack during wartime and we should not tolerate internet attacks either.

The Register asked the ICRC what it hopes to accomplish by demanding governments do more, given that nations already oppose illegal hacking and attempt to apprehend miscreants. We've not received a response.

In an email to The Register, Mike Hamilton, CISO at CI Security, a cybersecurity biz focused on the health sector, expressed skepticism that miscreants will moderate their behavior because the ICRC has raised the alarm but suggested that more international cooperation might help.

"I don’t think the ransomware operators, [business email compromise] fraudsters, etc. will give up by being asked," he said. "Note how bad unemployment impersonation fraud is right now – criminals stealing from people that are really down (bastards)."

"However, if governments talk and make some agreements this may have the potential to start treating our logical borders like our physical borders: if you don’t maintain a standard of behavior (speaking to country X), we lock out your legit business traffic and your business leaders can go scream to [political] leaders to fix things." ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022