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Hackers try to disrupt Health and Human Services Department’s COVID-19 efforts

Amid the government’s attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, hackers attempted to access the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ computer system via a cyberattack on Sunday night. 

Bloomberg reports that the cyberattack that occurred Sunday, March 15, was supposed to slow down the department’s computer systems but that the hackers ultimately failed in doing so. The department’s servers were reportedly overloaded with millions of hits over several hours.

malwarebytes laptop
Image used with permission by copyright holder

No data was taken from the cyberattack, but false information about a mandatory national quarantine quickly spread throughout the internet as a result of the hack. The National Security Council tweeted about the fake news late Sunday night.

“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19.”

Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus

— NSC (@WHNSC) March 16, 2020

Digital Trends reached out to the Health and Human Services Department to comment on the hack. We will update this story when we hear back. 

While many states across the country have shut down restaurants, bars, and schools or have limited large social gatherings, a national quarantine has not been announced. The hackers’ attempt at spreading this false news could have been a way to incite more fear over the coronavirus outbreak. 

Sunday’s attempted hack is not the first cyberattack during the coronavirus outbreak. A useful online dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University’s Center that maps the locations of confirmed and suspected cases, deaths, and recoveries linked to the coronavirus is being used by malicious websites to spread malware. The university is aware of the malware and issued a warning that people should only trust the map found on the Johns Hopkins website and the one maintained by ArcGIS. 

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In total, there have been more than 169,380 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, and 6,513 confirmed deaths. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, but there have been confirmed cases in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and dozens of countries around the globe.

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