Cyber attacks on Canadian health care organizations, ranging from individual physicians to large health care institutions, have been increasing at an alarming rate. Successful attacks on large hospitals and regional authorities have made headlines, while clinics across Canada fell victim to attacks resulting in exposure of thousands of patient records. In fact, nearly 50% of breaches in Canada in 2019 occurred in the health care sector.
Taking advantage of the pandemic
To add to this growing threat, cyber criminals are aggressively taking advantage of the current COVID-19 crisis. The increased volume of communications and updates sent to health care professionals, along with a sudden move to virtual care, has further increased the risk of cyber attacks. COVID-19 provides a perfect cover for emails disguised as official notices that contain malicious links to fake websites impersonating official organizations. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has identified over 1,500 websites posing as Government of Canada COVID-19 pages designed to scam Canadians. In late May, CCCS warned Canada’s health care and medical research sectors that they are of particular interest to cyber criminals, particularly state-sponsored ones.
There has been a dramatic surge in cyber attacks against physicians, clinics, health care professionals and hospitals stretched by the crisis. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a 150% increase in cyberattacks in the health care sector.