While the world was facing the rapid and deadly spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, most commonly known as COVID-19, malicious cyber attackers were also at work, increasing the number of attacks, switching methods, taking advantage of the boom in Internet, network and email users, and playing on fears during the uncertain time, cybersecurity experts say. Companies struggling to maintain operations are still leaving gaps in digital security, they warn.
When it comes to nefarious deeds, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a gold mine for bad actors. In addition to wreaking havoc for individuals and healthcare organizations, federal agencies are also prime targets. Case in point: a portion of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website was recently compromised, in what appears to be a part of an online COVID-19 disinformation campaign.
In a time of heightened cyber risk and limited human and fiscal resources, how can agencies protect their networks from malicious actors by taking a page from the COVID playbook? They can diligently practice good (cyber) hygiene.
In fact, there is a direct correlation between personal and cyber hygiene.
When the mysterious and deadly coronavirus invaded America’s shores in January, scientists who study deadly pathogens scurried to gather as much information as possible about the virus to help end the outbreak as soon as possible. They’ve answered some of the critical questions, but some answers are yet to come.
Some of those researchers work with a program called PANTHR for the Probabilistic Analysis for National Threats, Hazards and Risks within the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate. The program officially kicked off in October 2019, but it was created through a consolidation of ongoing efforts.
New York University researchers are studying the behavior of people leaving healthcare facilities and how they physically interact with the environment—what they touch and for how long, for example. The research will allow the development of localized disease transmission models that can be applied to larger areas, such as entire cities. Potential models could be critical for predicting the continued spread of COVID-19 as well as future pandemics and other disasters, such as chemical spills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the federal government’s need for better identity verification and management tools, in part to ensure relief funds go to the people who need them.
Gay Gilbert, administrator, Office of Unemployment Insurance, Department of Labor, told the audience for the FedID Virtual Collaboration Event today that the department was hit with a pandemic-induced perfect storm. “For those of you who have been watching the news, probably you’ve noticed that the unemployment insurance program has become a key—a little bit of a hotbed, actually, with regard to COVID-19,” she said.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is seeking groundbreaking solutions to address current and future operational needs.
Threats to global security now include the ongoing pandemic, its exploitation by international malefactors and climate change, according to an ad-hoc group of international defense and national security experts. These experts spent two days brainstorming the future online, and their findings were analyzed by the world’s most well-known artificial intelligence (AI) computer.
Titled “Securing the Post-COVID Future,” the event exchanged ideas among active duty military and civilian expertise with several international organizations. Findings during the 50-hour nonstop event were evaluated by tools from Watson, IBM’s question-answering computer that bested Jeopardy!’s top two champions in a competition a few years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge for the Defense Department. More people are working remotely, networks are busier than ever and hackers from around the world seek to take advantage, driving up demand for more situational awareness data to keep those networks safe. And the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) continues to deliver that data under the most unusual of circumstances.
The United States is overly dependent on foreign sources, especially China, for personal protective equipment such as the gear required during pandemics, including the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, according to Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Lord made the comments during an press April 30 press briefing that was streamed online.
Ellen Lord, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment suggested today that foreign adversaries may take advantage of the ongoing pandemic to conduct economic warfare against the United States, that industry could see a three-month “slow down” and that smaller businesses that provide critical components could suffer.
Lord made the comments during a press conference that streamed online.
(Part two of a three-part series)
As the world watches the COVID-19 coronavirus wreak havoc, the potential of a man-made pandemic is offering its own allure to bad actors, ranging from nation-states to rogue organizations. Even if an organization lacks the wherewithal to develop or deploy a biological weapon, lessons already learned are demonstrating that a pandemic offers great opportunities for mayhem and profit, a national security expert says.
The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate has released a review of systems it has developed and fielded and their contributions to countering the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list includes:
SABER is a free, open-source software that enables businesses to report their operating status both during and after a disaster. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, users have leveraged SABER to:
A U.S. Defense Department research program that has not yet even officially begun may contribute advanced testing devices for COVID-19 and other future pandemics.
The program is being run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is called the Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies. The acronym, DIGET, is pronounced “dig it.”
A movement is underway to inspire 3D printing or other additive manufacturing experts and hobbyists to produce N95-style masks, visors and other critical medical supplies across the United States and the globe.
The so-called Maker’s Mask is a mask created by Rory Larsen at the request of Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. Larsen created the mask from commercially available hobbyist-grade 3D printers and other common household materials. He intends to share his design freely and widely.