WHO Issues Two Reports on Increasing Cybersecurity Threats

Feb. 12, 2024
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed lots of cracks in cybersecurity systems, leading to a renewed push to tighten security measures

The WHO, in collaboration with INTERPOL and other organizations, has released two reports that identify ways to strengthen health security through operational securities.

The first report “highlights the far-reaching real-life impacts of cyber-attacks on health care.” According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic saw the healthcare industry increasingly targeted by cyber-attacks, leading to “health care facilities [paying] substantial ransoms.” Glen Prichard, Chief of Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering at UNODC, says that the report emphasizes “how vulnerable patient safety is to cyberattacks.”

Digital solutions have become prevalent in health systems globally, leading to “digital dependence, which has advanced, sometimes without careful consideration of new risks and appropriate investment in cybersecurity.” Inadequate cybersecurity and the sensitive information often held by health services has led healthcare infrastructure to become a “prime target for cyber-criminals.” Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC, emphasizes that member states of the WHO should “bolster cybersecurity in the healthcare sector by leveraging shared cybersecurity capabilities.”

The report also emphasizes that “cybersecurity maturity,” or “an organization’s level of readiness to defend itself and its digital assets against cyber-attacks,” is important to enhance, through both more rigorous training within the healthcare industry and close collaboration with law enforcement agencies, government agencies, and private sector and non-governmental organizations that can “provide alerts and warnings about ongoing cyber-attacks.”

The second report “reflects on different approaches to counter disinformation.” Disinformation is defined as a “weaponization of information” created with malicious intent. It specifically examines “different types of pandemic disinformation over time” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report suggests “a range of tactics to counter disinformation,” including “raising awareness of disinformation and information manipulation,” “promoting digital, health, and scientific literacy programmes,” “supporting fact-checking activities,” and “identifying drivers of (mis)trust in populations, and how those drivers are exploited to create disinformation campaigns.”

The WHO’s website has the news release.