While our nation’s healthcare facilities, government agencies, and businesses are contending the COVID-19 pandemic, ruthless hackers and scammers, are looking for vulnerabilities and hoping to take advantage of an already bad situation. They’re scoping out organizations that have inadvertently, to some extent, let their guard down during this unprecedented time, particularly in the area of IT and cybersecurity. And, they’re hoping to reap the benefits, especially  cash.

As reported by The Hill, major agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been targeted by hackers in unsuccessful but ongoing attacks.

Further, health agency websites have been targeted by ransomware attacks, including the website of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in Illinois. It serves the needs of approximately 200,000 people. According to The Hill, the agency’s website was offline for several days while experts struggled to bring it back up, significantly limiting the ability of health officials to communicate with the public.

Long before COVID-19, cyberattacks (particularly ransomware) were steadily on the rise. Take the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, for example. A cyber attack in December 2019 actually forced Mayor LaToya Cantrell to declare a state of emergency. And, believe it or not, that was the third cyber attack in a single year. The first occurred in July 2019 when school district computers had to be taken offline; the second took place in November 2019 when state government websites and other digital services had to be deactivated.

And, Louisiana clearly wasn’t alone. According to the lab report, “The State of Ransomware in the US: Report and Statistics 2019,” published by Emisoft Malwar Lab, Inc., at least 948 government agencies, educational organizations, and healthcare providers were victims of ransomware attacks in the U.S. in 2019. Of greater concern, the report states that the “unprecedented and unrelenting barrage of ransomware attacks attributed to more than $7.5 billion in losses.” The following few headlines support the lab’s findings: