Posted on March 19, 2020 at 9:17 AM
DDoS Attack on US Health Agency Tied to a Suspicious SMS Campaign
As coronavirus continues to spread throughout the US, as well as the rest of the world, there are many services that are shutting down. However, the health agencies, such as the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are more important than ever, and so are their websites.
These are the places that are offering accurate, trustworthy information about the current situation regarding the pandemic, which is why it is important for them to continue operating without difficulties.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are not among those to take a break during the state of the global pandemic, and one unidentified hacking group recently conducted a DDoS attack against the US health agency website, scanning for vulnerabilities and trying to take it down.
As mentioned, the HHS website is among the most important sites in the US right now, as it allows people to not only find any new reports and updates regarding COVID-19 situation, but also any other health-related data. It was not long before its importance also became clear to the hackers, who are currently being described as a ‘foreign actor.’
Fortunately, the attack has not been as successful as the hackers would have preferred, according to recent reports. The attack did manage to slow the website down, but it did not crash it, supposedly due to good, strong defenses that the agency has been utilizing.
However, this was more than possible, as DDoS attacks come in various types, and with varied strength. The attack lasted for hours, and the authorities have yet to reveal which method was used against the site, but it appears that the severity of the attack wan not enough to take it down.
The attack was a part of a larger campaign
The health agency’s spokesperson, Caitlin Oakley, commented on the situation by saying that the agency realized it was being targeted on Sunday. The agency remains fully operational, and it is currently investigating the matter.
Fortunately, these days, DDoS attacks are not as potent as they used to be several years back. Their increase in popularity and number over the past years has caused developers to create a new generation of defenses, while large websites started using such defenses as soon as they emerged. Such protections have already trained against numerous large attacks, and hijacking a wide (and still widening) range of protocols.
This is not a guarantee that a DDoS attack could not take down protected websites, of course, and this was by no means a harmless attack. If anything, it was unusual, as it came about at the same time as another campaign that was aiming to spread disinformation via SMS, social media, and email.
This second campaign claims that a national quarantine of the entire US was imminent, which the authorities managed to confirm as fake, particularly the National Security Council (NCS).
According to some theories, the two are possibly connected, and the attempt to take out the website was made so that people would be unable to check the information that would have arrived at them via text messages.
The ultimate purpose was to spread confusion, mistrust, panic, and fear. Of course, this way of viewing the events is currently not possible to confirm, but the important part is that the attack on the website has failed, and while such attacks are common even when there is not a worldwide pandemic.
Usually, most people do not really pay attention to them, unless they are somehow personally inconvenienced by them, and with the global pandemic out there right now, this might start attracting more attention from the population.