As the U.S. Health and Human Services Department grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, it has reportedly been hit by a cyberattack on its computer systems.

The cyberattack, which happened Sunday night, seemed to be an attempt to slow the agency’s computer systems down, but it was not successful, sources for Bloomberg said.

“It's unfortunate that HHS would be attacked during a pandemic. Luckily it slowed, but didn't break or compromise anything,” Marty Puranik, a cybersecurity expert and CEO of Atlantic.Net told International Business Times in an email.

He continued, “It's very difficult to fight multiple fires -- the actual pandemic and reacting to data security procedures; that's why it’s important to have those in place before volatile events occur.”

According to the news outlet, there were multiple incidents of hacking, and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other Trump administration officials were aware of the cyberattack. The cyberattack incident reportedly included overloading the Health and Human Services Department’s servers with millions of hits over several hours.

Sources for the news outlet said that there did not seem to be any data taken from the computer systems, and it could have been the work of a “hostile foreign actor,” but no proof of the claims was provided.

“This shows that attackers will take advantage of any situation, even global emergencies, to profit for themselves and the importance of realizing that attackers will try to take advantage of you when the chips are down,” Puranik said.

A tweet that was sent by the National Security Council near midnight on Sunday read, “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19.”



The tweet from the National Security Council seemed to confirm the hacking and the release of inaccurate information through the Health and Human Services Department’s computer system.

The incident is being looked into by Paul Nakasone, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, Bloomberg reported.

According to the World Health Organization, over 1,600 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., with 41 deaths reported. Worldwide there are over 168,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 6,600 deaths, the agency said. 

Cyberattacks from Iran against the US and its allies are expected to escalate in response to heightened geopolitical tensions Cyberattacks from Iran against the US and its allies are expected to escalate in response to heightened geopolitical tensions Photo: AFP / Fred TANNEAU