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Cyber security must be a pillar of pandemic preparedness, says US lawmaker

A US politician has called for cyber security to become a greater focus of pandemic preparedness, as a 2018 pandemic act looks set to be reauthorised ahead of its planned expiration in September 2023.

user icon David Hollingworth
Fri, 12 May 2023
Cyber security must be a pillar of pandemic preparedness, says US lawmaker
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Speaking at the 11 May House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, representative Bill Johnson of Ohio pointed out that when the first version of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was signed into law, cyber threats were known but nearly so prevalent — especially as they now are in the healthcare sector. There was a single provision covering cyber threats in the original act, and clearly, that is not enough.

According to Johnson, “cyber was a known threat, but not truly at the top of anyone’s mind when it comes to preparedness”.

But a string of damaging ransomware and other cyber incidents has taken a toll and shown how cyber security must be foundational to the smooth running of hospitals and other organisations in the sector.

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Johnson believes that growing cyber threats are distracting healthcare professionals from their primary task of saving lives, especially during demanding periods of workload — such as any future pandemic.

Providers have had to move away from “areas where they’re desperately needed, away from patient care and more toward their infrastructure, their technology,” said Johnson.

“Cyber security is so vitally important, to not only preventing ransomware attacks on hospital networks, and ensuring the safety of patient’s personal data, but also to our national security,” Johnson went on. “Nobody’s on the frontlines with that issue more than hospitals are fighting cyber threats daily.”

In January 2023, the Office of Information Security released an advisory warning the US healthcare sector to be alert to growing ransomware threats. It’s a worldwide issue, too, and Australian organisations are not immune.

Just this month, the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre at Westmead in NSW found itself the victim of the Medusa ransomware group, while the private Mater Health hospital network declared it had stopped a potential data breach in December 2022.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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