Women’s Health and Safety Amidst COVID-19 Cybercrime

By Sarah Katz, Senior Cyber Security Analyst, NASA Ames Research Center

As the past two months have seen the COVID-19 pandemic sweep the globe, domestic violence has spiked across multiple continents. Forced to stay indoors, many individuals are encountering partner struggles, some of which have turned abusive. In particular, many women in Asia, Europe, and the United States have reported feeling unsafe and wonting for reliable access to safety resources.[1]

Adding to the global increase in domestic abuse, an abundance of cybercrime has surged since the start of the COVID outbreak. With particularly enhanced rates of phishing campaigns, the healthcare industry has born a significant brunt in struggling to balance resource provision for patient care with cybercrime prevention.[2]

When coupled with the heightened frequency of domestic violence due to close quarters in quarantine, the threat of cyber attacks such as phishing rendering healthcare resources inaccessible poses an immense risk for abuse victims. In particular, phishing campaigns or Trojans that lead to ransomware threaten women’s health facilities to the point where if a ransom is not paid on time and physicians are unable to access patient records in time, victims with critical injuries could lose their lives.

This clear correlation between COVID-19 and the ensuing rise of cybercrime has spurred the development of many initiatives to combat the potentially devastating effects of threat actors taking advantage of the pandemic. Along with UN efforts and the volunteer-based COVID-19 CTI, which focus on healthcare in general, Cysec Health emerges as a nonprofit that specifically connects women’s medical providers with cybersecurity professionals to help protect patient health information. Founded by a female cybersecurity professional, this initiative aims to support all global providers dedicated to the medical care of women and girls both during and after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

About the Author

Sarah Katz AuthorSarah Katz is a cybersecurity analyst at NASA Ames Research Center, author, and Berkeley alum. In addition to information security, her passions include medicine and caving. Sarah can be reached on Twitter @authorsarahkatz.

[1] Taub, Amanda. “A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide.” The New York Times, The

New York Times, 6 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html.

 

[2] “WHO Reports Fivefold Increase in Cyber Attacks, Urges Vigilance.” World Health Organization, World

Health Organization, 23 Apr. 2020, www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-who-reports-fivefold

increase-in-cyber-attacks-urges-vigilance.