A cyber attack was leveled at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday amid that department’s continued vital role in the coronavirus mitigation.
The attack didn’t have any dire effects like a data breach, officials said, and HHS networks were functioning like normal by Monday. Officials were investigating the matter on Monday as well.
Not many details were given on what happened exactly, but the attack was noticed because of a “significant increase” in activity on the server, according to spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley. Oakley also confirmed that the database was working fine.
Bloomberg News, citing unnamed sources, claimed that there were numerous incidents of hacking, with the apparent intention of slowing things down.
One reporter on Twitter said that the hacking constituted an overloading of the server with millions of hits, which could mean a denial-of-service where a deluge of fake traffic is heaped upon a site with the aim at knocking it offline. Those kinds of incidents don’t usually have the intended effect on government sites.
The incident could’ve been connected with a spate of rumors about a national quarantine, which a text by the National Security Council confirmed was not true — there wasn't any such quarantine in effect as of Monday, March 16, and messages saying there was were fake, the text said. However, it was unclear how those two incidents were connected.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska predicted that such attacks may happen again amid the frenzy and chaos of the coronavirus, which has upended American life, thrown the economy into jeopardy and done a number on the stock market as everyone scrambles to contain the spread.
Hacking and misinformation have been rife as the virus made its way across the world. In some instances, fraudsters pretending to be health organizations have sent emails to victims proclaiming to be from legitimate groups that plead recipients to open attachments, which contain malware and other disruptive forces.