Life-Threatening Consequences of Digital Assaults Against Healthcare and Research Institutions

Cyberattacks on the healthcare sector are not just causing damage to digital assets, they are making life-threatening impacts as well. According to a recent report from Nature Biotechnology, cybercriminals could target DNA researchers with malware into producing toxins or synthetic viruses on their behalf through targeted cyberattacks.

Dangers of biohacking techniques

In a recent report, a group of academic researchers from Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has underlined the need for convergence between cybersecurity and biosecurity in a report.
  • Researchers have demonstrated how a cybercriminal can circumvent the DNA screening protocols of synthetic gene providers through a generic obfuscation procedure.
  • Insertion of an obfuscated DNA could create dangerous substances, including synthetic viruses or toxic material, that the software designed to implement the screening guidelines would not be able to detect.
  • In addition, software used to design and manage synthetic DNA projects may be vulnerable to man-in-the-browser attacks that can be used to tamper with these synthetic gene engineering pipelines, facilitating an end-to-end cyber-biological attack.

Cyberattack causing a death

In recent times, there has been a threatening incident, when a cyber-attack actually caused a loss of life.
  • In September, cybercriminals had hit a hospital in Düsseldorf, Germany, and invaded  30 servers at University Hospital Düsseldorf, crashing systems and forcing the hospital to turn away emergency patients.
  • As a result, a woman in a life-threatening condition could not receive the required treatment, and she lost her life while she was being sent to a hospital 20 miles away in Wuppertal.

The bottom line

Threats to sophisticated healthcare systems can cause severe havoc. Therefore, associated organizations need to take precautions against cyber-biological threats. Experts recommend improving cybersecurity protocols, including electronic signatures, behavioral analysis fueled by AI, implementing intrusion detection, and screening algorithm that takes into account in vivo gene editing.