Governments urged to work together to stop health care cyber attacks

The CyberPeace Institute has called for an end to coronavirus-related cyber attacks and is asking governments to step up and take action.

Joined by the Red Cross and 48 other former and current international leaders, the institute released a letter urging governments to work with one another to stop cyberattacks on hospitals and international health organizations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The institute’s letter comes just weeks after health care sectors in the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Thailand and the US have fallen prey to various cyberattacks, ranging from ransomware to disinformation campaigns.

When successful, these attacks have endangered lives by interrupting health care services but have also slowed the dissemination of accurate information and healthcare supplies.

To this end, the CyberPeace Institute, along with other signatories, have called on governments and the United Nations “to reaffirm and recommit to international rules that prohibit such actions, and to join forces with civil society and the private sector, to ensure that medical facilities are respected and protected, and to hold attackers accountable.”

“As healthcare professionals are protecting us in the real world, it is up to civil society, industry and governments to collectively act for their protection in cyberspace”, said Stéphane Duguin, CEO at the CyberPeace Institute.

“In this effort, humanity needs governments to work together by setting the tone and the example, to ensure healthcare is protected, and perpetrators are held accountable.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross added: “We’re in the midst of the most urgent health crisis in modern history, and these attacks threaten all of humanity.

"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.”

The letter was published on the CyberPeace Institute’s website and has since appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and The Guardian.

Other notable signatories of the letter include former Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov; former UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein; former director general of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; and Microsoft president, Brad Smith.