U.S Health and Human Services network hit by DDoS attack

During the Covid-19 outbreak, HHS servers suffer a DDoS attack attempting to cause disruption

DDoS attack targets HHS.gov

DDoS attack targets HHS.gov

According to news reports,[1] on this Sunday night, The United States Health and Human Service Department was hit by the cyber attack. Criminals attempted to take department’s servers offline in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak. Having in mind how actively people search for updates and other information regarding the pandemic situation, there is no surprise that HHS site became a target.

However, the DDoS attack, when hackers typically send a huge amount of connections to a website or the particular IP address at the same time, overwhelm the server to disrupt it, and make the connection no longer accessible, failed.[2] While the incident intended to slow the work of the agency’s system and affect the general issue-reporting about the pandemic, it didn’t happen. The National Security Council denied the rumors regarding the quarantine and national lockdown to stop useless the panic.[3]

The only confirmation from the government is that the incident was a foreign attack. Even though all the needed people and institutions are aware, no additional information can be confirmed as of right now.[4]

The DDoS attack that failed to disrupt critical agency functions

This was not a breach because attackers only attempted to undermine the HHS’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. The goal of these, supposedly foreign threat actors was to interfere with critical functions of the lead agency responding to the Coronavirus outbreak. DDoS is automated and can overwhelm a public-facing system to slow down or even paralyze any activities.[5]

However, the failed attack still raises some concerns because foreign actors can attempt to exploit this crisis to achieve other goals against America. Right now the analysis is still in the process to determine the origin of the activity and indicate the source in particular. Government fears that the incident might be connected to Russia since there is a big opportunity that actors use the current situation to create more chaos in the country. No particular reports or comments from the government, but the FBI stated:

We are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks and the federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly.

Criminals are seeking to take advantage of peoples’ panic and anxiety

The situation with Coronavirus pandemic got global and people all over the world keep on panicking. Criminals attempt to take advantage of the situation, so phishing attacks,[6] ransomware infections and other malware distributing campaigns becoming more and more common. 

While health professionals are fighting the Covid-19 outbreak, cybersecurity experts need to heighten the focus on their networks and ensure that hackers are not causing chaos and more problems with communications. The more prominent targets of such attackers are institutions providing information to the public and healthcare industries that provide help directly to the people.

These DDoS attacks and spear-phishing campaigns can trigger more issues with data access and exfiltration, so limited socializing should encourage people to stay safe online too.