We’ve all heard the old saying, “kick them while they’re down.” And, unfortunately, that’s exactly what cybercriminals are doing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. All across America (and the world), public and private sector organizations are witnessing a dramatic increase in malicious, and potentially costly activity, namely ransomware. 

According to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), “governments are seeing an ‘alarming’ rate of cyberattacks aimed at major corporations, governments, and critical infrastructure.” In fact, a new report released by the organization says that malicious actors have switched focus from “individuals and small businesses to government agencies and the healthcare sector, where higher financial demands can be made.”

As previously reported by The Hill, major agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have even been targeted by hackers in unsuccessful but ongoing attacks. So have health agency websites, including the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in Illinois. Recently offline for several days, communication between health professionals and roughly 200,000 people was severely limited as IT experts worked to get the agency back online. 

In July 2020, U.S., UK, and Canadian cybersecurity officials issued a warning about a hacker collective called APT29 and their “efforts to target U.S., UK, and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations.” The hacking, per the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is predominately aimed at “government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare, and energy targets.” So, who’s to say your organization might not be next?

Cybercriminals are clearly taking advantage of an already bad situation with COVID-19. That’s why, even in the midst of the pandemic, organizations must remain vigilant. That requires having the proper cybersecurity measures in place, even as employees work from home, and of course, a Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan—just in case.