Cyberattack on US Health and Human Services slows coronavirus response

The United States Department of Health and Human Services experienced a form of cyberattack Sunday night related to its coronavirus response in an attempt to slow down its operations, administration sources confirmed to ABC News Monday.

The assault targeting HHS was not a hack but a distributed denial of service — or DDOS — attack, according to multiple sources.

The distinction is important because there was no apparent breach of the HHS system, which could interfere with critical functions of the lead agency responding to the coronavirus contagion. The DDOS effort apparently had automated users — called bots — trying to overwhelm the public-facing HHS system in order to slow it down or even paralyze it.

Officials believe the effort was not particularly successful and are satisfied that the system was largely able to repel the intrusion.

The concern, though, is that this is not the first cyberattack that has been attempted since the COVID-19 crisis began and officials fear it won’t be the last.

PHOTO: The Department of Health and Human Service in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2020. (The New York Times via Redux)
PHOTO: The Department of Health and Human Service in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2020. (The New York Times via Redux)

“As federal state and local governments focus on handling the current public health crisis, national security officials are also tracking other threats — in particular those posed by terrorist or extremist groups and foreign adversaries who may seek to take advantage of all of the attention being focused on the coronavirus and conduct an attack,” said John Cohen, a former acting Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security and contributor to ABC News.

At this point, analysts are trying to determine the origin of the attack. Officials have told Congress that the intelligence community fears that entities connected to Russia would try to use the current situation to sow even more chaos in the American public.

The FBI declined to comment.

Intelligence and cyber officials are investigating to see if there is a connection to Sunday’s messages saying there would be a national quarantine instituted, but as of now, they have not linked the two.

The attack was first reported by Bloomberg.

Cyberattack on HHS meant to slow coronavirus response, sources say originally appeared on

The Yucatan Times