Hackers target hospital computer systems

Hospitals in both Spain and the Czech Republic have been recently hit by cyber attacks

A stethoscope on top of a MacBook keyboard

Hospitals in Spain and the Czech Republic have been targeted by cyber criminals in efforts to compromise their computer systems while healthcare workers deal with a dramatic influx of patients due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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The Spanish national police (Policía National) has warned hospitals of emails containing a “very dangerous and malicious virus” that is being sent to their staff, according to Spanish news outlet Murcia Today. The Policía National believes that the “entire computer system of Spain’s hospitals” is under threat of being compromised by hackers, in a time when the nation struggles to contain the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Spain is the second-worst hit European country, as coronavirus-related deaths surpassed 2,000 yesterday.

The warning comes almost two weeks after the one of the largest coronavirus testing facilities in the Czech Republic was forced to temporarily cancel surgeries and transfer new patients to other facilities as it became a target of cyber criminals.

“Gradually, the individual systems were falling, so all computers had to be shut down,” Jaroslav Šterba, director of the Brno University Hospital, told Česká televize. The hospital could not access its computer databases, so all information had to be written and transferred manually, making work even harder for healthcare professionals dealing with a pandemic.

“There are laboratories, haematology, microbiology, biochemistry and more sophisticated laboratories for tumour diagnostics, radiological systems work, but there is no possibility of transferring information from these laboratories to the database system,” explained Šterba.

In two days after the cyber attack took place, 12-13 March, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Czechia more than doubled to 298, according to Healthcare IT News

Even the World Health Organisation is not immune to cyber attacks, as it revealed that it had been the target of an unsuccessful hacking attempt that occurred at the start of March - around the time coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

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