AJ Thompson, CCO at Northdoor plc
23 September 2020
A cybercrime incident in Düsseldorf has lead to German prosecutors opening a homicide case against the currently unknown attackers. A female patient, suffering from a life-threatening illness, had to be turned away from the city’s university hospital earlier this month after its systems had been knocked out by a cyber-attack. Tragically, she died in the ambulance carrying her to an alternative hospital 20 miles away.
This attack is inline with a new worrying approach from cybercriminals as they attack institutions that are under more pressure than ever as a result of the pandemic. We have seen hospitals, education facilities and other public sector groups all being targeted.
The previous head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin believes that this is a real change in cyber-attacks. “If confirmed, this tragedy would be the first case I know of, anywhere in the world, where the death of a human life can be linked in any way to a cyber-attack.”
Being the victim of a cyber-attack is no longer an inconvenience to an organisation which might result in a day or two’s confusion or loss of data, but now directly impacting people’s lives.
As such all organisations, particularly those in the public sector should be looking to be proactive in their defences. Indeed, Germany’s cybersecurity agency chief, Arne Schönbohm, said that the Citrix flaw that lead to the attack, had been known about since December 2019 and called on healthcare facilities not to delay IT security upgrades. Something that AJ Thompson, CCO at Northdoor agrees with.
For too long a cyber-attack has been considered a major inconvenience for organisations, damaging bottom lines and reputations. The attack on Düsseldorf’s hospital has raised the consequences dramatically. As criminals continue to target vital public sector organisations it is crucial that organisations do not sit back and rely on their existing defence.
Even by simply upgrading and ensuring that all patches are in place, organisations can help to protect themselves from the latest threats. However, as cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their approach companies need to ensure that they are proactive in their defence.
Identifying vulnerabilities, both within their own organisation and within third party suppliers, and dealing with them before they are attacked is crucial. They can no longer sit under the walls of their defences, as cybercriminals continually find ways of breaching them.
Unless more is done to implement proactive defences, we are sadly likely to see more deaths associated with cyber-attacks, as there is no sign that cybercriminals are moving away from targeting vulnerable organisations.