The US Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has a lot to deal with right now, and its problems were amplified over the weekend when it suffered a cyberattack as it responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
Three people with knowledge of the incident told Bloomberg that the hackers accessed the agency’s systems but didn’t steal anything. It appears that the perpetrators’ aim was to slow the systems down.
The White House Security Council sent out a tweet confirming false information regarding a national quarantine had been spreading, which was a direct result of the hack. “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown,” the NSC tweeted. “@CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus,” it wrote.
It’s unclear who was behind the incident, though HHS officials assume it was a hostile foreign actor, but there is currently no proof. It appears to have involved a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, as it overloaded the HHS servers “with millions of hits over several hours.”
Paul Nakasone, head of the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command, is looking into the situation, one of the people told Bloomberg. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other Trump administration officials are reportedly aware of the incident.
The number of coronavirus cases in the US is fast approaching 4,000, putting it eighth on the list of countries with the highest number of infections. In addition to the pandemic, the government is having to address the slew of misinformation being spread online. Battling foreign hackers is another problem it could do without right now.