Since the Coronavirus crisis began in earnest earlier this year, the strain on hospitals in the US and around the world has been the subject of a considerable number of media reports. However, hardly any media attention has been given to the dramatic and unsettling changes that have been made to hospital and healthcare information technology (IT) systems and infrastructure under the guise of helping the US healthcare system “cope” with the surge in data as well as an unsettling uptick in cyberattacks.
Over the past several months, 80% of healthcare institutions in the US have reported being targeted by some sort of cyberattack, ranging from minor to severe, with an uptick in phishing attempts and spam specifically. Most of these attempts have been aimed at illegally acquiring troves of patient data, including the recent hacks of hospitals in Chicagoand Utah. About 20% of the hacks and cyberattacks reported by hospitals and medical facilities since March directly affected the facilities’ capacity to function optimally, with a much smaller percentage of those including ransomware attacks.
One of the reasons for the increase in the success of these attacks has been the fact that more healthcare IT workers are working remotely as well as the fact that many IT staffers have been laid off or let go completely. In several recent instances, the removal of entire hospital system IT staffs have been tied to a larger effort by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consolidate control over patient data, including Coronavirus-related data, with the assistance of secretive government contractors with longstanding ties to HHS.
The surge of cyberattacks combined with major budget cuts has made hospitals even more vulnerable as many are compelled to do more with less. As a result, there has been a renewed push for the improvement of cybersecurity at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions throughout the country over the course of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
Amid this backdrop, an odd group of “cyber threat intelligence” analysts with ties to the US government, Israeli intelligence and tech giant Microsoft have “volunteered” to protect US healthcare institutions for free and have even directly partnered with US federal agencies to do so. They have also recently expanded to offer their services to governments and social media platforms to target, analyze and “neutralize” alleged “disinformation campaigns” related to the Coronavirus crisis.
While these analysts have claimed to have altruistic motives, its members who have identified themselves publicly have notably dedicated much of their private sector careers to blaming nation states, namely Iran but also China, for hacking and, most recently, for cyberattacks related to the Coronavirus crisis, as well as the 2020 presidential campaign. These individuals and their employers rarely, if ever, make their reasons for assigning blame to state actors available to public scrutiny and also have close ties to the very governments, namely the US and Israel, that have been attempting to gin up hostilities with those countries in recent years, particularly Iran, suggesting a potential conflict of interest….