Federal officials say the goal of a recent cyberattack on the U.S. Health and Human Services Department was to spread disinformation and disrupt the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cyberattack aimed to overload the agency’s servers by using automated users, or bots, to create millions of hits over a short period of time but was unsuccessful, according to officials. The attack didn’t result in a data breach.
Officials believe the cyberattack was tied to “fake” messages delivered during the same time over text, email and social media about President Donald Trump issuing an upcoming mandatory two-week quarantine in the United States.
Officials suspect the cyberattack came from abroad.
“We are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks, and the federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly,” said John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, which assists in national security, military and foreign matters. “HHS and federal government cybersecurity professionals are continuously monitoring and taking appropriate actions to secure our federal networks.”
The cyberattack comes after hackers have already started using coronavirus fears to spread malware on devices. Criminals are using email and websites with domain names related to the coronavirus for phishing attempts in order to infect devices with the goal of causing damage or steal data.
The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year and has since spread to countries across the world, including the United States.